Sermons from the Penny Pulpit
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Table of Contents
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|Christ Appearing Among His People.|
|The Infinite Worth of the Soul.|
|Purity of Heart and Life.|
|The Sinner's Self-Condemnation.|
|Refuges of Lies.|
|The Spirit Ceasing to Strive.|
|A Public Profession of Christ.|
|The Whole Counsel of God.|
|The Certain Doom of the Impentitent.|
|The Awful Ingratitude of the Sinner.|
Preached on Sunday morning, Dec. 29, 1850
BY THE REV. C. G. FINNEY
Of Oberlin College, America,
at the Tabernacle, Moorfields, London.
This lecture was typed in by Lewis Peregory
Reformatted by Katie Stewart
"Behold, I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me: and the Lord, whom ye seek, shall suddenly come to his temple, even the messenger of the covenant, whom ye delight in; behold, he shall come, saith the Lord of hosts. But who may abide the day of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner's fire, and like fuller's soap: and he shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver; and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness. Then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the Lord, as in the days of old, and as in former years. And I will come near to you to judgment; and I will be a swift witness against the sorcerers, and against the adulterers, and against false swearers, and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages, the widow, and the fatherless, and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the Lord of hosts." --Malachi iii, v 1-5.
These words were originally spoken by Malachi respecting Christ and John the Baptist. We learn from the New Testament that John the Baptist was the messenger who was sent before the face of the Messiah to prepare the way before him. We find this explained in the third chapter of the Gospel by St. Matthew, which I read to you at the commencement of the service. John the Baptist was sent before Christ, and Christ was the Lord who suddenly came to his temple; and the things followed his coming that are here spoken of in this passage of scripture -- as also in a great many other passages of scripture. We have here not only a fact announced, but a principle revealed in reference to religion and God's government of men. Christ had a church on earth when he came, but it needed searching and purifying, and he came for the sake of carrying forward this work. In this passage we have a striking illustration of the manner in which Christ deals with his people when ever he comes amongst them to search and purify them.
My present design is to notice the characteristics of a genuine appearing of Christ
among the people to revive his work -- the revival of religion among them. There
are many other passages of scripture in various parts of the Bible which reveals
the same principle. It is said of Christ, you recollect, that when He came his fan
was to be in his hand and that he should thoroughly purge his floor, gathering the
wheat into his garner, and burning up the chaff with unquenchable fire.
It is often of the greatest importance that men should consider well what are the true characteristics of Christ coming among his people -- what are the indications and evidences of it? There are a great many reasons why people should understand how such an appearing may be known, some of which reasons I shall have occasion to point out this morning. Before Christ personally appeared among the Jews he sent his messenger to prepare the way. John the Baptist was sent, you know, to call the attention of the people to the near approach of the Messiah, and to prepare them to receive him. Now this is a principle of the divine government, that when Christ is about to appear to revive his work among His people he sends a messenger to prepare his way. Nay! it is a curious fact that when he comes to judge and to condemn men he often sends them warning -- he sends a messenger to prepare his way, whether he comes in judgment or in mercy: this is a very common thing and has been in all times; when he comes in judgment he warns men in order to put them on their guard, if by any means he may bring them to repentance; and when he comes in mercy he prepares them for such a visitation also -- therefore, in the first instance, when the Lord comes to revive his work, somebody will be stirred up to call the attention of the people to the real condition of things and the necessity for a reformation among them. You will find this to be uniformly the fact, that when Christ is about to appear somebody will be stirred up to consider the spiritual wants of the people, and will do more or less to prepare the way for the coming of Christ by calling the attention of the people to their necessities. Sometimes it will be the pastor of the church, and this will generally be the case, or the leading members of the church, or other instrumentalities, will call the attention of the people to their spiritual wants, and then after this has been done, the Lord will suddenly come to his temple.
There is first the seeking after the Lord, then a calling upon his name in earnest supplications for him to revive his work, and then the Lord whom they seek will suddenly come to his temple. The Lord's temple is his true church on earth, of which the temple at Jerusalem was only a type; and doubtless reference is made in this passage to the people of God and not merely to the temple at Jerusalem. In the second verse it is said, "But who may abide the day of his coming? And who shall stand when he appeareth? for he is like a refiner's fire and like fuller's soap."
Now what did Christ do when he first appeared amongst men? And here let me say that what he did then he does substantially now under similar circumstances, and for the same reason -- because of the necessity for it; now it is always to be assumed when Christ comes to revive his work that such a revival is needed. But what is implied in such a necessity as a visitation for a revival? There is a great deal implied in the necessity for such a visitation; for this reason, whenever he comes to revive his work in any place there is a great need for it. It implies that there is much that is wrong, and that there is therefore much need for a reformation, -- this is always implied in a reformation of religion. In the first place some are stirred up to see that such things are needed; they look and seek for a reformation and after a time the Lord suddenly comes. "But who shall abide the day of his coming"? What is his object in coming? what will he say? what will he do? "He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and he shall purify the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver that they may offer to the Lord an offering in righteousness." Of course then whenever a revival is needed, this may be expected that when Christ comes there will first be a tremendous searching among the people.
When he did come what did he do? "Think not," he says, "I am come to bring peace on earth, but a sword; for I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter-inlaw against her mother-in-law: and a man's foes shall be they of his own household." What did he do? Why he began at the fundamental difficulty; he began by upturning the foundations of their hopes; all their self-righteous expectations. He brought to bear upon them a searching ministry. Observe, by his searching ministry, he threw them into the utmost distress, and agony of mind; he revealed to them the spirituality of God's law -- of the whole Bible as it then existed; and brought so much truth to bear upon them as to search them out. Now this is what he always does: this is his first work. He must try the metal to see what dross there is in it: he must see what chaff there is with the wheat, and then fan it away. He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver and gold: he must put them into the fiery furnace, by bringing truth to bear upon them in such a manner, as to purge the dross from the pure gold.
But let me say again: in such processes as this, it will very generally be found that certain classes of persons are peculiarly affected. We find in the present case, that Christ took in hand chiefly the Pharisees, the leaders of the church, and in a most unsparing manner searched and tried them; reproved their errors; contradicted them, and turned their false teaching completely upside down. To be sure this greatly offended them; very greatly tried them. But it is easy to see that this must have been the first work with him, for he came to purify the Jewish Church, and he must do this, by teaching them their errors and misconceptions -- their errors of doctrine and their misconceptions of the law of God. Now what he did then, he always does with all churches and all people, when he comes to revive his work; whatever errors and misconceptions they may be labouring under he must set himself to correct. If he find them with superficial views of the spirituality of God's law, he must correct them: if they have superficial views of the depravity of the human heart, they must be corrected -- if they have Antinomian views on the one hand, or legal self-righteous views on the other, they must be corrected. He must cast light on all the dark places, search the nooks and corners; and dispel all errors by the powerful light of truth: this must always be the case. And here let me say, that it is almost always true, that when the church or religion wants reviving in any community, much of the difficulty lies -- when perhaps people are little aware of it -- in their having settled down into some false conception of things, and mistaken their own spiritual state, and have thus betaken themselves, to various forms of error, more or less serious and fatal; so that after all they are not in that state in which Christ wishes them to be, but yet persuade themselves, that they are in a state which is acceptable to God. Now all this must be corrected; consequently when he takes hold of any community, any church, any people, any nation, you will always find that he begins in high places: he will begin among the leaders of Israel; among the heads of the people, and he will give them a terrible searching; he will try their spirits, their teaching, their lives, and he will most severely try them. It is very common -- I have always witnessed it -- for Christ when he comes to revive his work, to begin by trying the ministers themselves; "he will purify the sons of Levi" -- this he always does in all places. Indeed he needs to try them, that they may be instrumental in trying others: he needs to search them, that they be instrumental in searching others. He is going to work by them and through them, and therefore he will first give them a most tremendous sifting and searching; their motives will be searched, all their springs of action will be laid bare, and he will bring them to see their errors, and feel them too. I have many times known such terrible searchings to take possession of even ministers themselves in revivals of religion, that they would for a time almost despair, indeed I have known them quite do so for a time. Now this, I say, may be expected.
But let me say again: when Christ comes, of course, his object is to search out
wrong every where and set it right. He will search out the carnal professors of religion.
These are divided into various classes. Sometimes there are ambitious persons in
the church, who have an ambition to rise in the church -- their ambition takes a
religious type. They wish to be highly influential, to be highly respected, to be
put forward in the church, and to be held in great esteem; now where there has been
such ambition as this, Christ sees it, and will search it out. How often have I seen
such persons as these searched out in such a manner as greatly to expose and mortify
them. With men who have thus been ambitious, Christ will take such a course, as to
shew that they have been spiritually ambitious: if they wanted to be thought very
respectable, and be very high and influential in the church -- he will put them down
when he comes to revive his work. There is a great deal of this very often in churches,
but Christ will surely search it out and destroy it. "Who shall abide the day
of his coming? and who shall stand when he appeareth?" Again there are many
professors of religion who have a worldly ambition; they want to rise in the world,
they are trying to climb into the highest places of society -- they court alliances
with families who are on the high places of the earth. Now Christ at his appearing
will search out these worldly minded professors, and oftentimes will make terrible
revelations of their state of mind. Some have been spiritually proud, or have had
a worldly pride, and they will all be searched out. Again: oftentimes when he comes,
he will make revelations of character, and reveal the thoughts of many hearts, in
a manner that shall be truly terrible and shocking; things shall appear which were
not supposed to have any existence: with respect even to religious teachers, things
shall come out of such a nature as to shock men, and they will say who would have
expected that? Who would have supposed that such and such things existed? Who would
have expected that such a state of things existed, as actually did exist at the time
of our Lord's appearing in Judea? What a state of things did his coming reveal! Who
would have expected it? And what a stumbling block it must have been to the mass
of the nation that all the teachers and leaders of the people should deny that he
was Christ; they could not recognize his likeness to the prophetic announcements,
which has been made of him, and so they rose to oppose him.
Now we say, what a stumbling block this must have been to the great mass of the people, who were accustomed to look up to their teachers as the very best of men, and the most excellent of the earth: for it had come to be said, if any men are religious, the Pharisees are; if any men may hope to be saved, the Pharisees may -- they were regarded by the people as the most excellent of the earth. Now mark! what a stumbling block it must have been to the mass of the nation, that this class of people, almost to a man, rose up to oppose Christ when he came. They did not know him: they would not acknowledge him; they were angry with his preaching, and denounced the searching manner in which he dealt with them. It is always the case now, that just in proportion as people are out of the way in any church, or in any given locality or country, two things will be seen: first, that they do not know it themselves -- they will be blind to their own position; and second, just in proportion as they are out of the way, will they be taken by surprise at Christ's coming. These same indications will be seen more or less, as the state of things more or less resembles those which existed when our Lord was upon earth. If the church are settled down with some Abraham for their father; if they prefer to be the followers of some man or somebody who has stood very high in the Church of God, there will always be certain indications boiling out and revealing themselves, which are not in harmony with the Gospel.
Now this is a very striking fact, that oftentimes without being aware of it, people get into such a position as entirely to misapprehend the truth. Again: "the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed," when Christ comes. Now it often comes to pass, that men do not clearly reveal to their fellow creatures the deepest springs of action within them, unless something is done to search them out; but when certain things are done, they will reveal the deepest springs of action within them. Some men, when Christ comes to revive his work, will reveal great spiritual pride and arrogancy. They pretended to be very humble, and very prayerful, and all their deportment before people would seem to tell them that they were really so; but when Christ comes and begins to search them, and calls in question any thing respecting them, they reveal their great spiritual pride, their arrogance, their ambition, their disposition to lord it over God's heritage; or their true spiritual ignorance. "The thoughts of many hearts shall be revealed," now this is often very striking to see; I have witnessed it in a great many cases in times of revival; and precisely similar revelations will be made, when Christ comes to revive his work in any given church or locality. How strongly the deep feelings and springs of action will come out. It will be said of such and such an individual -- "What does he say?" "What, does he say so?" Things so unexpected will come out! Oft times let me say, individuals will be so searched that they will see their own rotten-heartedness, and other people likewise will see it. O! sometimes these revealings are terrible indeed! If I had time, it might be profitable and instructive to relate some of the multitude of facts that I have witnessed in revivals of religion, in illustration of what I am saying: terrible and even shocking things have been brought to light, and always will be under such circumstances.
When Christ comes to revive his work, he will bring iniquity to light by searching, preaching, and the power of the Holy Ghost. He will be a swift witness against them; there is no mistake; he "will be a swift witness when he comes to judgment against the sorcerers and against the adulterers." Yes, against the adulterers, for adultery will be brought to light; "and against false swearers;" false swearing will be brought to light; "and against those that oppress the hireling in his wages." Transgressions shall be brought to light; "the widow and the fatherless and that turn aside the stranger from his right, and fear not me, saith the Lord of Hosts." Every one of these things is often revealed and brought to light, when Christ comes to revive and purify the sons of Levi! The chaff is to be separated from the wheat; and the dross to be purged away from the gold and silver, and the corn and the metal are to come forth pure. A terrible searching this will be! A time of severe trial and sifting. But after this season of trial is past and things begin to settle down; "they shall offer unto the Lord an offering in righteousness; then shall the offering of Judah and Jerusalem be pleasant unto the Lord, as in the days of old, and as in former years."
But he will not only do this with the church; he will also try the congregation, who are not professors of religion; and will bring a terrible searching to bear upon them, through his ministers, through his church, and by his spirit -- he will bring home conviction to them, so that they shall understand themselves, and know the state of their own hearts!
A few remarks must close what I have to say this morning. In the first place, every one can see by looking closely at it, that these things must be true, of all revivals of religion. Now mark! I am speaking of revivals of religion; of Christ coming to revive his work, as spoken of in the text. Now if religion is to be revived, sin must be put away; if sin is to be put away; there must be a conviction of sin; and if there is to be a conviction of sin, searching must be applied. This must be a first step to a revival of true religion in any community -- for mark! A revival implies a necessity for a revival. If the people are in a declining and luke-warm state, then of course they want a revival, and before they can be revived, things must have a terrible searching. Again: it must be true, as every one can see, that the searching must begin in high places; that there will be, and must be, searching among those who are to be made instrumental in searching others, thus carrying the work forward. Rely upon it, that when any reformation is to be made, it will commence with the ministers; it must be so, for if any change is made for the better, in any church, those, who are to be the instruments of carrying it on, must be prepared for their work. Again: many persons have no just conception of what constitutes a true revival of religion; and so when Christ commences a revival, they begin to be surprised. They often think that such a terrible state of things as is manifested, where such a work is begun is evidence of anything else than the Spirit of Christ among the people. Thus it was when Christ came among the Jews, and therefore, they could not see in Christ a likeness to the Messiah, whom they expected. Now, let me say, it is always so, where people want reviving -- they are surprised, because they are not aware that they are so much out of the way: therefore when such means are adopted, they will say, these are not the kind of means that were needed. Of course, if they knew what they wanted, and if they were aware of their true condition, they would not be in the circumstances in which they are; but they are not aware of their true position, and their real wants. If it was left to them, they would universally do something else, than that which Christ sees is needed. But when they complain of the means which is adopted, and you ask them what they think they want, they cannot tell! They do not apprehend their true position, and their real wants. Therefore Christ always comes and takes them all aback and surprises them. He sees they need reviving, and therefore he searches them by his ministers, whom they will sometimes rise up against, oppose and denounce.
If persons would but consider deeply what is always implied in the necessity for a revival, they would see, that just those means must be used which, if they are in need of a revival, they do not desire, otherwise they would not be in such a state. The difficulty is in their own hearts. Their hearts are wrong. Now if their hearts are wrong, they do not desire that thing which God says they want; consequently when he comes to revive them, he will take such a course as will greatly shock their prejudices, for mark me, if he did not shock their prejudices, he never would revive them; if your prejudices, I say, are never shocked, you will never be revived -- never! Universally to shock prejudice is the very first thing done towards a revival! He universally takes them aback, in order to make them see that they are not going right. This should always be understood, and always counted upon by those who stand upon the watch towers; those who stand upon the high places of Zion, that if they ask Christ to come, he will give them a terrible searching; this is absolutely necessary, and I say should be remembered. I have often had occasion to say to ministers, with whom I have been labouring as an Evangelist, "I fear there is something coming, that will make the ears of the people to tingle; I am afraid there is something that God will search out; take care lest there should be some terrible revelation." Now when pastors know that any evil thing exists, let them apply themselves to search it all as before the light, and bring every soul to repentance. The searching will open men's minds, but let pastors not be afraid; let them stand fast: let them understand that their work is to purify and purge the church from dross and chaff: and in the prosecution of this work, they must expect that those who are at ease in Zion will be afraid and terror will surprise the hypocrites. But these things must be done.
Let me say again; it will often come to pass, of course, indeed uniformly, that where a revival has been commenced, persons who have kept up a fair outside, and deceived people, will then begin to be exceedingly restless and uneasy and will manifest a degree of opposition that from their profession was not to have been expected. A revival of religion will uniformly find out such people as these and bring them to their proper level, and make them understand themselves, and other people also will not fail to understand them. Sometimes I have known the most striking cases of persons ,who, it was supposed, would favor a religious movement, turn very restive, and find fault with this thing and that thing, and with the manner and the matter of this one, and of the other. Now this is to be expected; because if they are out of the way, this will be of course. If such is their condition, their hearts need be broken and searched, and it is not to be expected that this will be gratifying to them, or what they wished for.
Again: persons, who have seen revivals of religion, know what to expect in them, and they don't therefore want a revival. They dread the searching! And why should they not dread it? They are afraid! They may well be afraid. I have known ministers sometimes afraid, either for themselves or some of their people; they dreaded the disclosures of the rotten state of many among them.
But let me say again: impenitent sinners, who have committed crimes and are averse to making restitution, will dread a revival.
Once more; many persons who have hopes in which they have not much confidence, will have their hopes tried. There are many persons hold on to a hope when they can just barely hold on to it; they find it difficult to hold on at all; they have so many doubts and misgivings -- and so much reason to doubt. I am convinced that those doubt most who have the greatest reason to doubt! Cases are very rare in which persons doubt of their hopes, who have not good reason to doubt. Now persons who have hopes in which they have but very little confidence are not willing to have their hopes tried, to have them brought right into the crucible; they will therefore feel wretched when a searching commences, that will be likely to severely try their hopes.
But this leads me to say again: hopes that are really good at the bottom must be tried also. Those whose hopes are good, have need to be tried that whatever is wrong may be removed. Christ therefore brings the fire to bear upon them, and bring their hopes to the proof, and such will come forth from the furnace "rooted and grounded in love." Some have been guilty of crimes; these will be searched out. Perhaps crimes against the law, or against society. Most disgraceful things have sometimes been discovered, and made public, and sometimes the individual has been brought to repentance. Ofttimes when Christ comes to purify, it will appear as if the Church was about to be torn in pieces. I have often seen this myself. Just in proportion as professors of religion get into any false peace, it will seem, when a revival commences, as if everything was going to pieces. Don't be afraid, Christ is at the helm! Don't be afraid, I say of any such result as the church going to pieces; only continue to pray, and put every soul in the crucible, let every soul be thrown in; every one must be tried and searched; hold steadily on, let the fire try and search them to the bottom. It will do the people good.
Once more: ofttimes it will be found in revivals of religion that this will occur in congregations, some will go away; they can't stand it; they won't give up their idols. Some, I say, will go; but generally where one goes, twenty will come! When the minister goes on searching and sifting, it will sometimes produce great changes in a church and congregation; and mark! it is necessary that the worldly element should be put out, and therefore, such changes are necessary. Sometimes I have observed that when the worldly element has got into a church, it diffuses itself like leaven, till almost the whole church becomes possessed with a worldly spirit. Now Christ comes to work the worldly element out; and it is curious what means he will sometimes take to work it out. No matter what outward form it puts on, he will work it out of the church in one way or another; some he will bring to repentance, and he will greatly change the position and relations of others; instead of being high in the estimation of the church, they will become low, and some who are low will be elevated. Views will be changed of the spiritual character of many of the members; some will be greatly mortified; great changes will be introduced. These things, and such things as these may always be expected when Christ comes to revive his work. "He is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel." Some will fall and some will rise. Great changes will occur, but they will be all for good.
Again: and I hasten to close what I have to say this morning revivals of religion are designed by Christ not only to sift, purify, strengthen, and settle the church; but they are designed also to tell upon impenitent sinners who live around them for Christ works through the church upon the world, consequently, they are sealing times, harvest times, when multitudes are gathered in.
Now, let me ask, my brethren, have you had any indications of Christ's coming to you? Have you found that the Master, whom you sought, has come to his temple? Have you many evidences of Christ's appearing among you? How many of you have been searched? Have you been thrown into the crucible? Have the things that I have briefly noticed, and which are contained in my text, been seen among you? If so, then you know that Christ is in the midst of you.
Once more: ofttimes persons are looking for a revival of religion in an exactly opposite state of things to that which really constitutes a revival of religion. They want Christ to come in such a way as not to disturb anybody they cannot suffer any excitement! No excitement? Can a backslider be reclaimed without being excited? Never! Can a sinner be converted without excitement? No! Never! And no church ought to expect it.
But once more, and then I have done for this morning. Those that cannot abide the day of his coming here, how shall they abide the day of his coming hereafter? If you do not expect his coming or do not profit by it, or cannot stand the searching, cannot abide his coming to promote a revival of religion, what will you do when he comes to judgment? If you cannot bear the searching light of truth here, O what will you do when you stand unveiled in the presence of the solemn judgment under the blaze of that glory, from which the seraphim turn their faces, and cover them with their wings?
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THE INFINITE WORTH OF THE SOUL
DELIVERED ON SUNDAY EVENING, DEC. 22, 1850
BY THE REV. PROFESSOR FINNEY
(OF OBERLIN COLLEGE, U. S.)
At the Tabernacle, Moorfields, London
This lecture was typed in by Cheryl Lafollette.
Reformatted by Katie Stewart
"For what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?" --Mark VIII. 36
I HEARD of this text being proposed once to a great man who was celebrated as an accountant, but who was neglecting his soul. A friend of his stepped into his counting house with this important question for him to solve, as a question of loss or gain. "Is it not a question in which you yourself are vitally concerned? If it were not," said the friend, "I would not thrust it upon you." It was said to be instrumental in the conversion of that important personage's soul. In further remarking upon this subject I propose,
II. That nothing can be really good to a man who loses his soul.
III. That whatever he may gain, if he lose his soul, everything else will be but a curse to him.
Instead of gaining anything, if he lose his soul, even were it "the whole world," it would be of no great value, on the contrary, it would be a great curse. But how shall I speak of the worth of the soul? There is no question on which I ever attempt to speak, which makes me feel so much at a loss, and that not because there is nothing to say, but because there is so much to say; not because the subject is void of interest, but because it is in itself so surpassingly great, so infinite, that I always approach it with the fear of belittling it, rather than at all giving or having anything like an adequate conception of it. Indeed the text which I have read tonight is one that I always feel that I dare not preach upon. I never did preach upon it in all my life; because, as I have said, it always seemed to me that all I could say would only belittle the subject, so far does the value of the soul surpass all human conception. There are nevertheless certain things which, if a man will take the trouble to amplify, will enable him to form a much clearer conception of the subject than he otherwise would.
But let me say, to begin with, that it is admitted by all men that happiness is a good in itself--a thing desirable for its own sake. All moral agents everywhere regard it as a thing desirable for its own sake. This is a primary truth which everybody assumes, and consequently everybody at all times and in all places are seeking for it in one way or another. Enjoyment is what they are seeking; the desire after this, and the reckoning upon it as an ultimate good, is the main spring of human activity. Again, misery is regarded, by all men as an ultimate evil--a thing to be avoided for its own sake. These two things stand in direct contrast in men's minds by a natural law. About these things there is--there can be no dispute. Everybody assumes them to be true, and therefore, everybody seeks to secure the one and avoid the other.
In the next place of course, everyone knows, who has a human soul, that it is susceptible of both these--that it is capable of both happiness and misery. By most men, the immortality of the soul is admitted. It seems indeed to be a truth known to men to the necessity of their own nature; they never doubt it, unless they begin to speculate as to the truth of that which they know by their own nature. When they do this, they call into question things, which they are so created as naturally to affirm and believe; the immortality of the human soul seems to be one of these things. So strongly do they assume this, that very few cases are recorded in which men on their death beds have believed themselves to be about to pass into a state of annihilation; there have, however, been some few cases of this; but, mark me, this is not the unsophisticated language of nature itself. Those who have not sophisticated themselves by doing violence to their own intelligence, have, by one of its natural laws, the belief that the soul is immortal. Go to the savage child of the forest! He believes that after death, he will go into a region of boundless hunting grounds comprising, to him, every element necessary to constitute a state of felicity; he has thus an idea of his own immortality and of the immortality of the souls of all men. More than this, the Bible abundantly and clearly teaches it, but I have not time to go into this department of the subject. As a Christian congregation, I shall assume that you believe it, and shall therefore content myself with taking up a few points to induce you to contemplate, as well as the shortness of the time permits, the infinite and incomprehensible value of the human soul.
The soul's capacity for enjoying happiness or enduring misery, must be an ever increasing one; thus it is able to enjoy or suffer more as it progresses in existence; this also, is a thing which we very well understand and know to be true. Now there is no doubt that men are capable of enjoying or suffering much more than mere animals, or that adult persons are more capable of enjoying or suffering than little children. We know from our own consciousness and observation that it is a law of intelligent mind that their capacity for happiness or misery is a continually increasing capacity. The infant has very limited sources of enjoyment; all seems physical; its evil is bodily pain, and at first, it knows nothing whatever of pain connected with thought of remorse on the one hand, or of pleasure on the other arising out of remembrances. It is like a little animal--the gratification of its appetites produces pleasure, while physical pain of course produces misery; but as its mind develops, sources of pain and pleasure multiply continually. As soon as it comes to have thoughts, from its very nature these thoughts are the cause of pain or pleasure. Just as the intellect develops itself in all its departments, sources of happiness are thrown open; the capacity for enjoyment is enlarged on the one hand and for misery on the other. The little one comes by and bye to know his parents and those around him, and the smile of his mother is the source of happiness, while her frowns are productive of misery. Everything with which it becomes acquainted opens up new sources of pleasurable or of miserable emotions; just in proportion as it progresses in knowledge, these sources are multiplied. If virtuous, his increase of knowledge enlarges his happiness; the very laws of his own mind--the lecture as it were, which God has inscribed within him increase his enjoyments; and just in proportion as he avails himself of these means, his capacity for enjoyment becomes greater and greater. Perhaps he is converted while yet a mere child, and grows up knowing more and more of God and his government as he proceeds, till at length he launches into the eternal world; onward and onward he goes, learning more and more of everything which can increase his enjoyment, and increases in his capacity for enjoyment forever and forever.
But mark; the Bible informs us that men's happiness or misery shall be unmixed in a future world; that is, if persons are happy at all in a future world, they will be perfectly so. It will not be a mixed condition as it is here; there, happiness will be unmixed, complete, ever growing, and just so will it be with the misery of those who abuse God here--their misery will be unmixed and eternally increasing. To the one there remains no more misery--to the other no more enjoyment.
But again, this enjoyment or misery must, from the nature of the case, be ever increasing in all respects. First, it increases in quantity by reason of its continuance. Supposing the degree to remain stationary--that the individual got no more misery or happiness to all eternity--yet the amount would be constantly increasing from the very fact of its continuance by the law of mind, to which I have adverted, and from the nature of the case. Secondly, the degree of either happiness or misery becomes the means of producing happiness on the one hand, and misery on the other. Constantly accumulating knowledge will constantly increase happiness. Happiness or misery must constantly increase as the capacity of enjoyment or suffering is perpetually increasing. This is the inevitable result of a natural law. The mind must have new thoughts continually--it must know more of holiness and the nature of sin, and of all the reasons which forbid the one and promote the other, and thus, of course, the misery will increase with an increasing consciousness of guilt. But I need not dwell on this part of my subject.
Reflect a little, and endeavour to form some kind of conception of what endless duration is. Look right at it, for a moment, and try to attain to some comprehension of the infinite value of the immortal soul. It is to live to all eternity; it is to increase in happiness or misery forever and forever, there is to be no termination to this increase; it must be so by a law of nature. It is therefore easy to see that a period must arrive when every one of all the moral agents in God's universe will have either suffered or enjoyed more than all the universe have done together up to this present moment! Suppose tonight it could be computed how much happiness has been enjoyed by all God's creatures from the first moment of their existence to the present; the amount of course, would be great--utterly inconceivable to us; it is beyond our conception and we cannot conceive a bound to it; but yet, as the happiness of each soul is, as we have seen, incessantly increasing, a period therefore, must naturally arrive when the aggregate of its single enjoyment shall be equal to all that has yet been enjoyed in God's whole universe. But even this is but the beginning.
In fact, this is not all; the period will also arrive when each individual shall have enjoyed a hundred, and a hundred thousand times more than all the universe has enjoyed up to the present moment. Go right on from here; the time must come when every individual who is happy, will have enjoyed myriads and myriads of times more than the highest arithmetic in the universe can calculate; for, observe, it is ever increasing, and if it increases ever so slowly, what then?
Suppose a being is to be employed in removing the entire universe of matter by a single grain of sand at a time. Let him take only a single grain in a thousand years, occupy another thousand in his journey, another thousand there, another in the journey back, and after the expiration of a fifth thousand set off with another grain, till he has thus removed the whole of the globe on which we live. Let him take a million instead of a thousand years, and add to this globe the whole of the material universe, still an immortal being could do it, there is plenty of time to do it. Every one of you, remember, must live long enough to do this again and again, and yet be no nearer the end of your existence--you will even then not have a moment the less to live! All this time you will be either perfectly happy or perfectly miserable.
It is easy to see, moreover, that the time must arrive, when each one of God's creatures now existing shall know more, have more experience than all the universe of creatures yet have had. Every moral agent in the universe, at some moment of his existence, will be capable of more enjoyment, or of suffering greater misery, than all the universe of creatures are now capable of enjoying or suffering. Think of that! Just think of a mind whose capacity for enjoyment knows no bounds, and the law of which is everlasting development! Look at such a soul as that! What? Fixed under an unalterable law of everlasting development, running on and on as long as the Almighty Creator exists! Just think of the infinite and utterly incomprehensible value of a soul so constituted--capable of an amount of joy or sorrow so utterly outstripping all finite conception!
Suppose we take any child that is here tonight; when that child has gone forward so far in existence, that he has absolutely enjoyed or suffered more than all the creation of God has done up to this time, why he has not got one particle the less to enjoy or suffer than when he began; he is not the slightest possible particle nearer the close of it than at the earliest moment. Suppose he is happy, the time will come when he will know more of God, and have more experience of his government--when he will have lived longer than the entire created universe now has--and when he can look round and say, "my age is now greater than the aggregate age of all God's creatures previous to my birth; I am older, have more experience, have enjoyed more than all had before I was buried." What then? Why he will live on and on, and on and on till he has enjoyed myriads and myriads of times more and more and more until all finite conception is overwhelmed and swallowed up. But has he any the less to live or enjoy after all this? Oh, no! Why he has only begun, and he is no nearer the end of his existence than at the very first moment, for it has no end; he rolls onward and onward and onward on the tops of the waves of eternal life.
But reverse the picture. Shall we dare to look upon it? The period will arrive when, if unhappy, you will be able to say, "I have known more sorrow, remorse, bitterness, and agony than all the creatures in God's universe had when I came here." What then? Let him go on and multiply this to any possible extent till he can say, "Why no creature, that existed when I began to suffer, could then have conceived of the amount of misery that I have now suffered, and yet, I am no nearer the termination than when I first came here." Indeed the mind is wholly swallowed up in the contemplation of so incomprehensible a subject. Who can understand or conceive anything of eternal existence?--of what it is, to roll on and on, through an endless cycle of years, in happiness or misery, with a mind capable of the keenest enjoyment and of the most intense anguish forever and forever. Individual capacities in this world are extremely diversified; take for example that little child; it weeps, but while the tears stand on its little cheeks, its mother smiles, wipes them away, and it drops quietly to sleep. By and bye, it grows up and becomes a philosopher, it has read, studied, thought, and violated the law of God. Now remorse begins, but he wanders on in error and crime, and ascends the heights of science, as Byron did, looking down from those heights with a kind of disdain upon the ignorant multitudes beneath him. But the more he knows and the more he has abused his knowledge, the greater is his capacity for misery, till by and bye, although he sits on a high elevation of knowledge, he is racked with the keenest agony--an agony which an ignorant mind knows nothing about. There are opened in his bosom springs of the most intense misery, with which, in his earliest years he was perfectly unacquainted. Every step in the scale of intellectual development has only opened up the floodgates of wretchedness upon his soul. See him grow pale and wretched, till at length he curses the hour which brought him into existence. But if he could only escape from his own recollection--if he could only escape from the gaze of his murdered hours, opportunities neglected--what a blessing it would be to him! But mark, there they all stare at him--all his sins, his talents and acquirements troop around him to be his tormentors forever and forever.
But I pass in the next place to say, that nothing can be a real good to a man who loses his own soul. Happiness is the ultimate good, as everybody knows and admits, and all things are valuable to us in proportion as they contribute to this result. If we are deprived of happiness, nothing can be a real good to us. Anything which cannot be made subservient to our happiness is of no value to us. That, which men at present look upon as a good, they will ultimately see, from their present abuse, has become a curse; for the misery of a state of future punishment must be unmixed; their existence will therefore be an unmingled curse.
This leads me to say again, that everything man may gain, if they lose their souls, must be a curse. Their very existence will be a curse,--their knowledge will be a curse. The less knowledge the better; even should they be deprived of consciousness altogether, it would be an infinitely less evil than the retention of it. Every gift they abuse will be an ultimate evil. When they remember their comforts in the midst of their misery, will it not tend to increase their unhappiness? Every enjoyment they have had will be an ultimate source of increasing anguish. Sinners, for example, who abuse the gifts of Providence, will have to suffer for it in this sense--God will call them into account for every one of them. God ought to do this. If they have had temporal enjoyments here, the very recollection of them will be a source of additional suffering there. It is therefore madness to neglect the soul for anything else. If the soul is saved it matters not what else is lost; for after all, the soul and its enjoyments is the only thing of real value. If the soul is saved, what matters it what is lost in securing it?
Let me speak to the poorest man in this assembly--you look perhaps on the riches and luxury of those above you in society. You, perhaps, envy their enjoyments; but have you reason to do so? Look at this; suppose that your soul is saved, what will it matter to you a thousand years hence, whether the few days you live here, you were rich or poor? You can look back, perhaps saying, "When I lived in London I was very poor, and had to work very hard, and sometimes did not know how to provide for the wants of my family." But would you then regard those sufferings as an evil? No, indeed; you would see they had all been for your benefit; your soul was saved, which secured you all conceivable and all possible good: but if, on the contrary, your soul had been lost, what would it matter if you had literally gained the entire world? If your soul is lost, of what use can anything else be to you? Banished from the presence of the Almighty and the glory of his power, how could you enjoy anything? The moment you die, you have received all your good, if you have lost your soul, and all the rest is unmitigated and unmingled evil.
But let me say once more, the salvation of his soul is the great business of a man's life; his great errand in this world is to secure his own salvation and that of as many as he can. Why, who does not know this--than as eternity is longer than time, in just so much is the soul more valuable than all that relates to this world. In short, nothing is valuable except insofar as it contributes to this end; and everything ought to be made subservient to this, but what is perverted is worse to us a great deal than if we never possessed it. To seek present enjoyment then, even if it were perfect, at the expense of our soul, were infinite madness. But perfect enjoyment in this life is an utter impossibility. Oh! sinner, suppose you live two hundred years; and suppose, moreover, that your enjoyment actually is perfect, if you lose your soul, what an infinite loss it would be; for this enjoyment, if abused in sin, must be more than compensated for by a proportionate addition to your future misery. The very breath you breathe, if you breathe it out in opposition to God, and die in your sins, will be charged against you in God's account. If you are abusing the blessings you possess, you had better far have been without them.
Again, suppose you should submit to the greatest possible earthly trials and privations, so as to deny yourself every earthly good for 200 years, what then? Suppose you spent the whole of the time in the most entire and universal self-denial--nay, suppose you had hung upon the cross in all the agonies of crucifixion--suppose you should remain there till the end of time, what then? How much more than compensated would you be by the retrospect in a state of everlasting felicity? For the joy which is set before you, can you not afford to endure the cross and despise the shame? When quite a young convert, I remember being very much struck by a resolution of President Edwards, which was to the effect, that all his conduct should have respect to the whole of his existence taken together, and that he would decide the propriety of any course by regarding it in view of his endless being. It struck me at the time as a resolution worthy of a child of God. How shall I regard my conduct ten thousand years hence, when I have grown so old that the universe has passed away with a great noise rolling up like a scroll--when the sun has gone out, and the material universe is scarcely remembered--how shall I regard it then? Suppose that the virtuous were completely miserable, and that the sinful were completely happy in this world; and that this life were to continue not only while it will, but to be extended for as many myriads of ages as it is possible to conceive of, still men would be infinitely mad to choose present happiness and future misery. But it is not so--it cannot be so--the man who fears God enjoys indefinitely more, even here, than the sinner; for "the way of transgressors is hard." How much there is to embitter every day and hour of his existence. Ah! how little real enjoyment has a wicked man, even in this life! Poor creature! And is this the best he is ever to have? Oh yes, this is the best, poor as it is, and mingled as it is with bitterness! What infinite madness! There is no profit at all; it is only an appearance of profit for a few moments--a feverish excitement which will react and render the misery the greater.
A few remarks must conclude what I have to say, and the first remark is this--how little men think of the infinite value of the human soul and what eternal life and death is! How little is this realized, even by those who profess to believe the Bible! Now is it not one of the greatest of all wonders, that men so generally admit that this life is short, and that it may close at any moment, they know not when; and yet, with this admission on their lips, that if they die in their sins they must lose their souls, and that they are liable to die in their sins at any moment--that they must exist to all eternity--and yet, infinitely strange to say! where can there be any such thing found in the universe? what so infinitely wonderful, as the little thought men give to the value of their souls? I have sometimes been obliged to turn my mind away from a thought so horrible, or it might have absolutely thrown my intellect off its balance. I have set my children before me, and reflected on their destiny, till I have said to myself, that if I should see one of them die in their sins, I should die myself immediately. What! The thought of one of my children losing his soul! It seems to swallow up everything else, and nothing seems to be of any importance in comparison with it. If their souls are saved, what else need they care for? I have often thought of how little consequence it was to lay up money for them. I have always let my children understand that, from the nature of my occupation, I have no money to leave them. I have told them that I have no desire to do so. I have given them as good an education as I could, and all I desire for them, is, that they may save their own souls, and the souls of others. To give them worldly goods, except with a view to extend their spiritual usefulness, always seemed to me to be the extreme of madness.
In looking at the anxiety of Christian parents to lay up money for their children, we see how much influence their conduct has in making their little ones worldly-minded--they come to think a great deal of wealth, station in society, the things of time, and almost nothing of eternity. When I have thought of that, I have asked myself thousands of times, "Can these parents believe that their children are immortal?" Is it possible that if they do believe it, that they love them? Is it possible they believe the affirmations of Scripture, and yet pay so much attention to their temporal, so little to their spiritual welfare?
For example: the Bible represents this world's good as a most ensnaring thing and that it is an extremely difficult matter for a rich man to be saved; it everywhere warns men against efforts to enrich themselves and their offspring; but I have remarked that very many persons act as if the exact opposite of this had been declared in the Bible--as if it had said that prosperity in this world was essential to eternal life. The good things of this world are not, however, to be despised; but when they are allowed to stand in the way of securing the salvation of the soul, the madness is absolutely infinite.
Let me now address myself to such of my hearers as sustain the parental relation;--my dear friends, how have you regarded this subject in relation to your own children? How important it is that you should estimate rightly the value of your children's souls--that you should appreciate the dangers of their position, and the duties of yours;--if these things were rightly considered, they would set your hearts on fire with zeal to secure their salvation. Once more. Let me remark how infinitely different God's judgment is from ours. We call those happy who are wise to get money, and who are successful in the acquisition of it, and you envy those who rise in rank and station. Ah! the penetration of such is not very deep. How infinitely different will you think of it a few years hence! when the curtain drops and you depart, less than a single hours experience in eternity will convince you which would have been the best for you.
Suppose the spirits of those who have gone before you could appear to you in the flesh and communicate with you, what a tale would they unfold! But the veil between time and eternity has been drawn down closely. All that we absolutely need to know has been revealed to us; and if he receive not Moses and the prophets, neither should we one risen from the dead; for if you reject God's testimony, you will have infinitely more reason to reject the testimony of one from the dead. Sinner! how long do you mean to neglect your soul? You don't always mean to neglect it. Ah! there is the stumbling block. I greatly fear for you. Suppose we should go tonight to one of the wretched inhabitants of hell and enquire, how came you here? "Procrastination was my ruin. I intended to repent; I never meant to die in my sins; but ah! in the midst of this I was cut off." Oh sinner, will you not attend to your soul now? Do you say you "Can't do it tonight?"
But you can do it tonight; for God would not command you to do it now if it were not in your power to obey him. But you do not in your heart believe your own objection. Suppose an individual were just now to have a direct revelation that he was about to die, and suppose that he should stand up and appeal to me as to what he should do--suppose also that I should reply, "Oh! it is too late now; you have not time!," would you not all rise up and exclaim, "He can! He can! He can!" And will you tempt God by making an excuse which you don't believe yourself? Suppose anybody should attempt to hire you on oath not to attend to your soul till after a certain period? How much would you ask, sinner? Why you would think it was the devil himself, if a man should come and propose such a thing to you.
I recollect a case of this kind, in which a sinner absolutely did hire another in this way. The sum was three dollars, and the man engaged not to attend to his soul for a given period. He took the money. The donor of it was a stranger, and he bethought himself, after he was gone, that it must have been the Devil in human shape. "Have I not sold my soul?" at length he cried out; and he cast the money away in the bitterest agony. Well might he feel shocked. You would be shocked if anyone were to make you such an offer. But Satan will not shock you; he will let you slide and slide along and along, while the unseen hand of death is preparing to toll your knell! Perhaps he is watching to see whether he cannot persuade you not to attend to it just now, and eagerly looking to see whether you go home tonight neglecting it, and what else you will attend to first. What is there of which you can say, "Oh God, I must do this first?" Sinner! have you gone thus far along the path of life and neglected your soul till now? And shall this warning also pass unheeded?
But let me conclude by addressing a few practical remarks to the unconverted. Now, sinner, are you not afraid to go on in your sins? If you put it off tonight, tomorrow evening you will not be at the prayer meeting, but somewhere else; and next Sunday perhaps, you will not go to a place of worship at all. A father once, in writing to his son about a certain habit which he had contracted, after expostulating with him at some length, broke suddenly off," But enough, enough, I know I shall not ask you in vain; and I will therefore urge the matter no further, lest my doing so should appear a want of confidence in your love." And shall God appeal to you in vain? Where is your sense of right? of honor? or of duty?
Oh, sinner! I am ashamed to be obliged to present so many considerations! Am I surrounded by reasonable beings who know the relations to God? Am I standing here for an hour and a half to persuade you by an array of motives which would sweep away every thing but a rock, to lead you to repentance? Might I not blush that I am a man, if I have thus to plead with you, or in fact, to suggest any other motive for your repentance beyond the fact that your not doing so is an infinite wrong to the Almighty?
Come to Christ, and say, "Oh, Jesus! thou hast bought me, I will be thine. Thou hast died for me, and purchased my life; and shall the life which thou has redeemed be given to Satan? No! no! as I am a man. No! as I have an immortal soul. No! as I belong to the government of God. No! as I hope for salvation. No! I dread to displease God, and desire to please my Saviour. Heaven beareth witness that I renounce my sins; and let God write it in heaven." Are you not ready? Why not? Make up your minds now and forever, right here on the spot, in the house of God where the angels wait to tell the story, where the Holy Spirit breathes upon the people. What say you sinner, are you willing to convert over from Satan to God?
You must decide now, one way or the other; and if we could see what infinite consequences, in respect to persons here, are turning on that decision, methinks the congregation would wail out with agony to see what destinies are trembling on this momentous point! See that needle, trembling on its pivot! It must, when it settles, point either one way or the other to heaven or to hell. Sinner! such is your destiny. What do you say?
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PURITY OF HEART AND LIFE
PREACHED ON SUNDAY MORNING, DECEMBER 8, 1850
BY THE REV. C. G. FINNEY,
AT THE TABERNACLE, MOORFIELDS, LONDON.
This lecture was typed in by Cheryl Lafollette.
Reformatted by Katie Stewart
"I will wash mine hands in innocency; so will I compass thine altar, O Lord." --Ps.xxvi. 6
In remarking upon these words, I propose to inquire--
II. WHAT IS IMPLIED IN KEEPING THAT RESOLUTION?
III. I SHALL SHOW, THAT BOTH THE RESOLUTION AND THE KEEPING IT ARE INDISPENSABLE CONDITIONS OF ACCEPTANCE WITH GOD.
I. Inquire, What is implied in the resolution of the Psalmist?
We find the Psalmist among many other striking sayings forming and expressing such a resolution as this to God. I will read the connection in which this resolution occurs--" Judge me, O Lord; for I have walked in mine integrity." Here you see, he invites God himself to sit in judgment upon his uprightness. "I have trusted also in the Lord; therefore, I shall not slide. Examine me, O Lord, and prove me; try my reins and my heart." What a laying open of himself! What an unbosoming of himself before God! "For thy loving kindness is before mine eyes; and I have walked in thy truth. I have not sat with vain persons, neither will I go in with dissemblers." He did not sit down with vain persons, neither would he associate himself with those who dissembled before God. "I have hated the congregation of evil doers, and will not sit with the wicked." By sit, here, is to be understood to mean associate with, to be on familiar terms, so as to imply fellowship with them. Then follows the language of the text--" I will wash my hands in innocency; so will I compass thine altar, O Lord."
It is very plain, from the connection in which these words stand, that this resolution implies, first, an apprehension of the holiness of God; the absolute purity of his character. The Psalmist, undoubtedly, clearly saw this; because to form such a resolution as this in any proper sense, always implies that the mind perceives the holiness and purity of God's character, and understands it. Why should he form a resolution to cleanse his hands in innocency, unless he saw that it was an absolutely indispensable condition of approaching God! I remark again. It implies also a perception of the condition upon which we may approach him--upon which he will allow us to come into his presence. Doubtless, the Psalmist, not only had a conception of God's holiness, but that God required him to be holy, pure, sincere, upright, in approaching him--to have "clean hands," as the Psalmist here expresses it, if he expected to have any fellowship with God. It is worthy of remark, that the Psalmist says, that he had no fellowship with wickedness, that he did not sit with vain persons himself, that he did not go in with dissemblers himself; that he had nothing to do with mockers; and it would be very curious if he should say this of himself, and yet suppose that God would have anything to do with dissemblers, pretenders, mockers! The Psalmist felt that these things would be required of him, and that they became him; that if he would approach unto God, he must be able to say what he did say. Now if he himself refused to sit with the wicked, and to have fellowship with dissemblers; could he expect that God would accept such, and allow them to have fellowship with him? Doubtless, he had a very clear perception of the holiness of God's character, for his resolution shows that he had been so contemplating it; and says also very plainly the real condition on which he could approach God and find access to him, and acceptance with him. Contemplating the holiness and purity of God, he mentions these several things as he seems to come nearer and nearer to God. As one after the other they seemed to loom up before his mind, he saw clearly that such things must be the conditions of an infinitely holy God accepting him. He would not accept the wicked himself. Would God then accept him if he went in with the wicked, and associated with dissemblers! He saw clearly that God could not accept him if he came with vile hands!
I remark again: this resolution implies, not only that he perceived the holiness of God, and the condition upon which he might have communion with him, and be accepted of him, but it implies also that he fervently desired communion with God's purity, with God's holiness; with God himself. It shows that he himself wanted to draw near to God; he viewed God's purity, so that it instead of driving him away from the throne of grace, had the effect of drawing him to it. His most anxious desire was to come very near to God, and crowd right up to his throne of grace, or why should he express himself as wishing to compass the altar of God, and declaring his intention to wash his hands in innocency, that he might be accepted of him.
It implies also that he was perfectly willing to give up everything that was inconsistent with approaching God in this way. He resolved to cleanse his hands, to wash them in innocency, and in this particular manner would he compass God's altar. Now observe, he saw the conditions, and was willing to fulfil them. He saw what God must, from his own nature naturally require of those that would come near to him--that they must come with clean hands, that he could not receive dissemblers, if they would not leave their sins behind them they could not approach the altar of God; but if they would leave their sins they might approach and find forgiveness--if they would bring their sins they must not come in. Every soul may come into his presence, and approach him, but they must not bring their sins with them, if they do, they cannot be received. The Psalmist saw this, and he resolved to do it.
Again, it implies, of course, renunciation of all sin. He designed to approach God with clean hands. But observe, persons cannot approach God with clean hands, in the sense that they never have sinned, but in the sense that they are resolved to renounce all iniquity for the time to come.
Once more, the resolution implies a solemn pledge of universal obedience to God. "I will wash mine hands in innocency;" implies, I say, the idea of universal obedience to God.
II. But I inquire in the next place, What is implied in keeping such a resolution as this?
If the resolution is a mere feeling, it is not a proper resolution at all; nor if it is a mere wish, a mere desire; it must be a purpose of the mind, and a determination of the heart. But let me ask what is implied in keeping this resolution! The resolution is, "I will wash mine hands in innocency." As is usual in the scriptures, an inward state of mind is expressed by an outward act--washing or cleansing the hands. "I will wash mine hands in innocency." Now, certainly, he did not mean to say literally that he could simply wash his hands, but his heart. Washing the hands, in this case, doubtless implies in the very first place--I will put iniquity away from my heart--I will renounce the spirit of self-seeking altogether--renounce from my deepest heart, every form of sin and iniquity- renounce sin as sin, and iniquity as iniquity. And here it should be remembered, that it is not enough for an individual to renounce one sin or one form of sin, but all sin and every form of sin--at least for the time being. Everybody can see that the mind cannot reject one sin, because it is sin; cannot put it away because of that particular quality--sin; and yet cherish some other form of sin--no man can put away one sin, as sin, without at the same time putting away all sin of every form and degree. The keeping of the resolution then, implies, that no iniquity shall be left, but that all shall be put away. Do you suppose that the Psalmist confined his idea to any outward act, and meant to say that he would simply reform his outward life in certain respects? Would that be to wash his hands in innocency? What say you? If he had put away great frauds, and retained little ones? If he had put away forgery, but retained little petty thefts in his business transactions? Would that have been to wash his hands in innocency? Judge ye! If a man paid his debts to save his reputation, and yet took a penny out of every person's hand who came into his shop, would that be to wash his hands in innocency? Suppose that a man kept his word in great matters which would entirely come out before the public, but should keep all his affairs in such a position as to mislead the public; or should put an article in the window, marked such a price, and when people came in, should not sell that, but an inferior article at the same price? Would that be to wash the hands in innocency? Now, suppose I had time to go over all these little tricks with which the business world is so full, should we not see a great deal to condemn? and should we not see a very little washing the hands in innocency? We look into business transactions and we see cheating, over-reaching, pulling and grasping on all sides. The resolution then to wash the hands in innocency, implies that there shall be no stain, no sin left, none of your tricks, none of your management, none of your little petty actions in palming off goods for what they are not--no sin whether in heart or life.
Let me say again: the keeping the resolution to wash the hands in innocency, undoubtedly implies also, repentance for past sin, for unless persons repent of past sin, they do not cease from present sin--that is certain. Now suppose that a man breaks off from any actions which he formerly practiced, but does not repent of them, what does he do? Why, he continues to cleave to the iniquity still! He does not show it in his outward actions, but not having repented of it, it festers in his heart; it is like a fire covered up, there it is, although it does not for a while gush out--the iniquity is there, though it does not bubble up. If there is no repentance, there is no washing the hands in innocency. But let me say again: the keeping the resolution to cleanse the heart, implies further. Self-examination in the light of the rule, "Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them." This is the rule that God has laid down--" Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself." Thou shalt regard his interests as thine own; thou shalt regard his feelings as thine own; thou shalt regard his reputation as thine own. Now observe, of course, the keeping of the resolution to cleanse the hands, implies that the mind looks at the rule in view of which the hands are to be washed, the life and the heart purified. Here is the standard! No other standard than this is God's standard! Now observe--unless the mind looks at that, it will never renounce sin. A man therefore, who would approach God with his hands cleansed, must ask himself, have I done, or am I doing, in all things, as I would wish to be done by? Such a man requested a favour of me! Did I grant it, as I should have desired him to grant it had I been the petitioner? Did I grant it, as I might reasonably have expected of him? I dealt with such a man, did I deal with him just as I would have him deal with me? Such a man wanted money, I had some, did I let him have it just as I could have expected or wished him to let me have it, had I been placed in his circumstances? Such a man's character was assailed in my hearing, did I seek to vindicate his character, just as I would have had him do in reference to mine? I heard a story about him that I did not believe was true, did I deny it and resent it, as I would had it been told about myself? Did I feel for his character as I should have done about my own? Such a man is in difficulty, do I sympathise with his as I should wish him to sympathise with me if I were in his condition? Ah, I wish I had time to enter into many of these things in the sight of this rule, "Love thy neighbour as thyself." If we were to take this rule and set it before ourselves, and then go into the various business affairs of life, we should see a vast number of things that require amendment. Let me urge each one of you to take this rule, and see wherein you have transgressed it, and say, I must repent of all these things, which are not merely transgressions of human laws, but of the perfect law of God. I must repent of these things, and what is more, I must, as far as possible, set about making restitution. There is no honest repentance without this. Suppose a man were to rob you of a hundred pounds, and then say, "I am very sorry," but nevertheless keep the money, what would you think of his repentance? Would that be to wash his hands in innocency? Suppose a man has slandered you, spoken evil of you, or has connived at others speaking evil of you, and when he has learned the truth, refuses to confess it to those whom he has misled,--is that to wash his hands in innocency as becomes an honest man? You know very well that there is no more honesty in him than there is in the devil! Who does not see that this must be true? But you may say, is he not honest in reference to other things? I answer, no! What does Jesus Christ say himself? "He that is unjust in the least, is unjust also in much." The man that is unjust in the least, is universally unjust; he is not thoroughly honest in anything. Let me illustrate this. Suppose a man pays his notes to the bank, but behind his counter will take advantage of his customers in the matter of a few pence, will cheat every man that comes into his shop, as far as he can without danger to his business character. He is continually putting out his feelers, like a snail, to see how far he can go without danger to his reputation among men--is that man an honest man? No! there is not a particle of honesty about him: he is selfish and sinful from beginning to end! He pays his notes into the bank! Why? His business character would be ruined if he did not, and he would become a bankrupt. But go into his shop to make a purchase, and he will cheat you if he can. Is that an honest man because he pays his notes to the bank? No! There is not a particle of honesty in him. Now let me say; these are very practical ideas, and of great importance to be considered in a city like this.
I remark again: I said that the keeping of this resolution implies confession and restitution. Observe what is the rule by which confession and restitution is to be made; the golden rule--"Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them." "Love thy neighbour as thyself." Now observe, it ought to be universally known that confession must be made to the injured for the wrongs inflicted. Here let me make a difference which it seems necessary to make, between this confession and the confession insisted on by the Roman Catholics. They make a priest the depository of all confessions, but I speak now of making confession to the person who has been injured. Suppose you have slandered another, you ought to confess to him, or to the person whom you have misled, by your statement concerning him. Such a confession is demanded by justice and our duty towards our neighbours. And it is self-evident that such a confession as this is demanded by God, who has said, "he that covereth his sin shall not prosper; but he that confesseth and forsaketh his sin shall obtain mercy." And again, "confess your faults one to another that ye may be healed."
But let me say again: a keeping of this resolution implies a taking up of the stumbling blocks, and a making everything right as if preparing for the judgment. Just suppose that we knew, that in one week the judgment was to sit and all the preparation we should be permitted to make must be made in that space of time! Would you not at once be thoroughly upright and honest? Well you must be as honest now as you would be then! To be sure, I do not say that you must take the same course now as you would then, in all respects, for if you knew that the affairs of the world were so soon to be wound up, you would not think it necessary to continue your worldly business any longer; and many other things that you ought now to do would not be needful then; but the keeping of this resolution implies that you be as thoroughly upright and honest now as you would be then, in making confession, and as far as possible, restitution. We must remove all stumbling blocks out of the way. Suppose we look around us and see sundry things which offend, and hinder the salvation of our fellow men, what must we do? What does Christ say? "When thou bringest thy gift to the alter, and rememberest that thy brother hath ought against thee, leave there thy gift; first go and be reconciled to thy brother and then come and offer thy gift." Do not offer it, for if you do it will not be accepted. Go first and remove the stumbling block and then come and offer thy gift. Here is the very principle for which we are contending laid down by Christ. Some men seem to suppose that the gospel dispensation is a very lenient one, compared with the Old Testament dispensation. The exact opposite of this is the truth. The New Testament dispensation is the same as the Old; but while the one related chiefly to the outward life, the other comes right home to the heart. Take Christ's sermon on the Mount, in which he tells you that unless there be obedience to the law of God in the heart, there is no obedience at all. He taught us also to exercise a forgiving spirit, or else when we prayed God would not hear us; unless we are upright and honest when we pray, and make our peace with those whom we have offended, we cannot approach unto God.
But let me say again: regard to the rights of others in all respects is implied in washing our hands in innocency, including the payment of our debts and exact uprightness in all business transactions; not in the sense of compliance with human laws, but in the view of the great principle of loving your neighbour as yourself. Washing your hands in innocency, implies that all your business be transacted upon this principle. You cannot really be honest except only when you love your neighbour as yourself, and regard his interests as you would your own, and seek his good as well as your own. Suppose a man comes into your shop for a certain article, and you knew well that you have not got what he wants; but you show him another, and say, that this is not exactly the article you wanted, but it is better than the one you inquired for, and it is the article most generally used, while at the same time you know that you are deceiving the man; you know it is an inferior article, but you say, though this is not exactly what you wanted, I guess it is better and will answer your turn quite as well; you will get it on to him if you can, no matter by what means. Now let me ask, is this being honest with God? Is this washing the hands in innocency? Is it indeed! O, the endless tricks of selfishness, and the endless subterfuges with which men excuse themselves; and yet so much piety in the midst of it all--selfish all the week, but mighty pious on the Sabbath! Sometimes it is that persons would not on any account stay away from church on the Sabbath, but they would cheat you in their business on the Monday if they had an opportunity of doing so. Suppose a man comes into your shop and asks if you have such an article, and if you are not sure that you have, will you tell him so? will you say--I do not know that I have: I will look, but I do not think I have anything that will exactly answer your purpose. There is an article something like it, you can look at it and see if it will suit you. Now, will you tell him all that you know about that, and be right up and down with him? Or do you say that is not my business. Let me take care of myself. Your customer is ignorant of the quality of the article: will you be honest with him, or will you take advantage of his ignorance, and charge him more than it is worth? Perhaps he will barely get home before he finds out that neither the article nor the price were what they ought to have been. Suppose you say, well, I am seeking to get money that I may give it to the Missionary cause! Let me tell you that a man might as well fit out a pirate ship for the same purpose! You take advantage, lie and cheat, to get money for God! Well, when you have got the money so for God; just go into your closet, lay the money down, and say, "Lord, thou knowest how I got this money today: there was a man came into my shop and wanted a certain article; and I had not what he wanted, but I had one not so good, but I managed to get him to take it, and I charged him a little more than it was worth, because I wanted to give something to the Missionary cause!" Now would that be washing the hands in innocency? Can you serve God in such a way as that? Would an infinitely holy God accept such an offering? Judge ye!
III. We now pass to show in the next place, that both the resolution, and the keeping of it, are indispensable conditions of acceptance with God.
Now let me here explain what I mean by the condition of acceptance. I do not mean that these things which I have mentioned are grounds upon which God will accept us. He will not accept us for these things, because after all, there is no satisfaction made for past sin--not at all: therefore, he cannot accept us as if we had not sinned. While this resolution, or the keeping of it is not the ground of an acceptance, I say it is a condition, in the sense that we cannot be accepted without it. Because if God were to accept us without this, he would do the very thing that the Psalmist himself would not do. The Psalmist declared that he would have no fellowship with iniquity, and would not go in with dissemblers, and shall you do so? No! Then I say this is an indispensable condition of acceptance with God.
It should always be understood then, that when we talk of persons being justified by faith, we always mean that faith implies repentance, making restitution, obedience and holiness of heart. The faith that takes hold on Christ implies all this. We are justified by faith; but it is the faith of obedience to God; the faith which leads to sanctification; the faith which works by love and purifies the heart; the faith that overcomes the world. Ah, the faith that overcomes the world, that's the faith to mark an honest man! The Bible describes the faith that justifies as the faith that overcomes the world. Look at that man, he says he has faith. Does his faith enable him to overcome the world? Why, it has not made him an honest man in his worldly business! It does not keep him from cheating! Is that the faith of the gospel? No, indeed! It is the faith that makes void the law; and "do we make void the law through faith? God forbid! Yes, we establish the law." True faith produces the very spirit of the law in the mind, and consequently obedience to it in the outward life. Do not let me be misunderstood, I am not advocating a system of self-righteousness. I am not saying that men may be saved by their own works, and denying that they are justified by faith; for this I maintain; but I maintain that the faith which justifies, is the faith which overcomes the world. Faith implies honesty with God and man. Faith implies uprightness of heart; and faith implies a cleansing of the hands. Beloved, no man has faith that justifies him who has not faith that makes him honest. If you are not honest, you have not faith; in God's sense of the term, you have not the faith of the gospel.
But let me say again: this must be a condition of acceptance, for God would disgrace himself if it were not. We could not ourselves feel a respect for God if he did not make this a condition of our acceptance. He does not require that we should be saved by our own works, for that is impossible. He does not require us to undo the actions of our past lives, for that were impossible; but he requires us now to become honest, and all which is implied in that state of mind, sincerity, simplicity of heart, and confidence in him. Furthermore, let me say, if we could approach God, and be accepted by him without becoming honest men, it would not do us any good. If God was such a being that he could have fellowship with our sins, we should be wretched beings still. The fact is, beloved, there is no way in which the soul can be at peace with God, without its becoming like God. There must be written upon the heart of a man holiness to the Lord, before he can be at peace with God. There is a natural attraction between the mind of God and a good man, as there is between the sun and the planetary system; instead of our earth running in a straight line away from the sun, it is drawn round and round and round by the attraction of that planet. Just so it is with a good man and God. There is such a natural attraction between the good and the holy soul, and the God of infinite purity, that it is continually drawn towards him. The sun attracts the earth, and in a certain degree the earth attracts the sun, and thus the earth is carried round its diurnal and annual rotations. In a similar manner does God attract the soul of the good man, and the soul of a good man, in a measure, attracts God. The soul knows nothing about gravity in respect to this earth. The mind is not material, and if it was not tied down by the body, it would not go round with the earth, but would ascend to its author. Why, Christian, have you not found sometimes that there was such an attraction between yourself and God, as if your soul would almost leap from its body, or draw the body up with it to heaven. An eminent Christian lady once said, that at one time the attraction from God was so great, that it seemed to her as if she should go to heaven body and soul together.
I mention these things to show you, that when we speak of being drawn towards God, we are not merely using a figure.
But let me say further. Some people suppose that they are to be saved by imputed righteousness, while they are destitute of personal righteousness. Suppose you had imputed righteousness, what then? Suppose you were to get to heaven? that would be no place for you. Heaven would be hell to you. But let me assure you that you must have an imparted righteousness, and become pure in heart and life, ere God will accept you.
A few remarks must close what I have to say. The first remark I make is this--you are not accepted of God; if you have not conscious communion with him; if you do not find God in his house, in your closet, and do not enter into sensible communion with him. Again: you see from this subject why there is so little real communion with God in the church. For the best of all reasons--there is so little of the washing of the hands in innocency. Let me say again: many persons do not seem to understand at all that this is a condition of acceptance; they seem to suppose that somehow the gospel was designed to make men pure, but they do not understand what is implied in washing the hands in innocency, in casting themselves upon God for present grace and for future grace. Again: you have seen from this subject how abominable it must be to God for persons to pretend to love and serve him while they indulge in a worldly spirit and live a worldly life. I remark once more; you need not make some great and wonderful preparation--occupying months or years before you give your heart to God. Now suppose that every person in this house were at this moment willing to do as the Psalmist did, and were to come right out and say," I will wash my hands in innocency"--what is there to hinder? We are soon to unite in prayer. Let the whole congregation then make one move toward the throne of grace! everyone make a move with his heart, and say, Lord, I give up all sin, and I do it now, and as soon as possible I will set about making everything right outwardly. In my heart now I renounce sin, all sin, I will now consecrate my heart, and wash my hands in innocency. Are you all willing to do this? Come along then! come along! every one. The veil has been rent, and the door has been thrown wide open, and no man can shut it against you but yourself. Will you then shut it against yourself? Will you refuse to enter? Be not so foolish; come now, come with earnestness and sincerity and God will accept you.
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THE SINNER'S SELF-CONDEMNATION
preached on Sunday evening, December 8, 1850
by the Rev. C. G. Finney
at the Tabernacle, Moorfields, London.
This lecture was typed in by Ron Neely.
Reformatted by Katie Stewart
"Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant." --Luke xix. 22
These words are part of a parable, which is as follows:--" A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself kingly authority, and to return. And he called ten of his servants and delivered them ten pounds, and said unto them, "Trade with those till I return." But his citizens hated him and sent a message after him saying, "We will not have this man to reign over us." And when he was returned, having received regal authority, he commanded these servants to be called unto him, to whom he had given the money that he might know how much every man had gained by trading. Then came the first, saying, "Lord, thy pound hath gained ten pounds." And he said unto him, "Well, thou good servant; because thou hast been faithful in a very little, have thou authority over ten cities." And the second came, saying, "Lord, thy pound hath gained five pounds." And he said likewise to him, "Be thou also over five cities." And another came, saying, "Lord, behold, here is thy pound, which I have kept laid up in a napkin; for I feared thee, because thou are an austere man: thou takest up that thou layedst not down, and reapest that thou didst not sow." And he saith unto him, "Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant. Thou knewest that I was an austere man, taking up that I laid not down, and reaping that I did not sow: wherefore then gavest not thou my money into the bank, that at my coming I might have required mine own with interest!" And he said unto those who stood by, "Take from him the pound, and give it to him who hath ten pounds. ("And they said unto him, "Lord, he hath already ten pounds.") For I say unto you, That unto everyone who hath much, shall be given more; and from him who hath little, even that he hath shall be taken away from him. But those mine enemies, who would not that I should reign over them, bring hither and slay them before me."
The purport of this parable is clearly this:--"First, it is presumed that that which God requires of man is the right use of the talents committed to him. This is assumed throughout the parable. God expects this, and they make themselves entirely responsible, and without excuse, for not immediately obeying God. The very admission pre-supposes a knowledge of the duty devolving upon them. The fact is, they know themselves to be sinners, that they ought to repent, that they need a Saviour; and who would allow that he ought to repent if he had not sufficient conviction to see that he ought? Once more. In admitting that they ought to repent, men assume thus their ability to do so. They may deny it, but they believe it still, or they never would admit that they ought to repent any more than they would admit that they ought to fly.
Again: this admission shows that they themselves have no confidence in the excuses they make, that they do not suffice to justify themselves; and that they well know that not one of them will be had in respect, when things come to be seen in their true light; if this were not so they would honestly and confidently bring them forward in justification of their conduct. This is natural, and you will find it everywhere, from the smallest children upwards; wherever they really suppose themselves to have a good excuse, they will readily make it--they will deny their obligation whenever they honestly feel that they have a valid excuse. This shows conclusively, that when sinners admit their obligation to become Christians, they assume, in this very admission, that their excuses are good for nothing. If they had but one really good excuse among the whole, they would rest calmly upon it, and at once deny their obligation.
Let me say again. These things also show that these people are in reality hypocrites, making excuses; for if they were not, they would deny their obligation; for if there were in reality any valid excuse for their conduct, they must plead it in justification. But they do not deny it; they cannot do so without belieing their very nature; they can no more deny their obligation than they can deny their own existence. They virtually admit their own hypocrisy, in not doing what God tells them they ought to do, what they know and feel they are bound to do, and excuse themselves in a way that does not even satisfy their own consciences.
But I remark again. These admissions on the part of sinners, also show that they know very well that God must condemn them, for if not, they must condemn him! They condemn themselves, and they therefore assume that God must condemn them; for if he does not do so, they feel that he cannot be just. Sinners themselves acknowledge their wrong-doing. They violate even their own standard of moral obligation. They sin against their own consciences, however stupid those consciences may be. They feel that, as God is a good being, he must condemn them; and if he does not, then their own consciences will condemn him.
Their admission shows again that in the deepest assumptions of their minds, they do justify God. The law of their own minds are God's witnesses, and stand up for ever to testify for him. So truthful are these laws of the human intellect that they will speak, and speak the truth. To be sure, there is no virtue in admitting what you cannot honestly deny. There is no virtue in a man's conscience saying, what by a necessary and natural law, it must say and cannot deny. True, the heart would bribe the conscience if it could, but the testimony of their nature for ever leaves them without excuse before God. These admissions show that they themselves know their pleas of inability, and every other plea is only a refuge of lies with which even they themselves, as I have said, are unsatisfied.
From these things we see why it is that sinners everywhere have such a fear of death-- why they are afraid to die! Is it because they are afraid God is unjust? No. Is it because they are afraid that they shall fall into the hands of a cruel and relentless tyrant who will trample them down in their weakness, regardless of their merit? No! They are not afraid to meet God because they think him wicked, but because they know by the irresistible assumption of their own minds, that God has an awful account with them, and that they have no apology for their sins. They do not say, "Oh! I have a good excuse, I know I have; but God will not hear it. I know that I was born with such a sinful nature that I have a good excuse for my conduct, if God would only hear it; but he will bear me down with his power."
Is that the reason why sinners are afraid to die? No! that is not the reason; it is because they know they have done wickedly, and that they are without excuse. They are not afraid to meet God because they deem him unreasonable and partial, but because they are wicked, and he is good. That is the difficulty. They feel that goodness ought to be armed against them, because they have no possible excuse for their sins. It is often deeply affecting to sit down by the death-bed of a sinner who has gone on in sin for a long series of years without a serious thought in his mind; if you examine into the workings of his mind, it is striking to see how many things after all, he has assumed. It is remarkable how many points of self-accusation present themselves in how many points his conscience is disarmed.
But again, it is absurd for any individual to acknowledge obligation, and still plead inability. If it be naturally impossible for a man to do a certain thing, consistency would lead him of course to deny his obligation to do it. It is not only an absurdity to acknowledge obligation and still deny ability, but it is an absurdity that no mortal, is, in reality, ever guilty of. Men may theorize about it, and think the contrary; but the principle is true and universal; there is no excuse to which it is not applicable. For if we have an excuse that is really a reasonable one, it is a justification--it sets aside the obligation, and the only proper way is instantly to plead the excuse and deny the obligation. The mind is true to itself, and always does do this; for if a man has a reasonable something that, in his own assumption, ought to justify him for doing, or neglecting to do certain things, it is a direct contradiction to say that he can possibly, at the same time, admit his obligation to do those things. The mind never does or can do this; and therefore, when men admit their obligation, they assume that God is reasonable in requiring it, and that it is not naturally impossible for them to do it.
But let me say again. The excuses with which men deceive themselves, when viewed in the light of their own admissions, is a glaring proof of the madness of their wickedness. How strange! Here is an individual admitting that he ought to obey God, and with the same breath excusing himself for not doing so! Does not everyone see the absurdity of admitting obligation and excusing yourself at the same moment!
Again. I know very well that sinners do not really consider what is actually implied in those admissions. Multitudes of persons here have followed these admissions saying--"Oh! yes, I admit that--I admit that there is a God, a right, a wrong, that God is good, and that I ought to obey and love him--that I have sinned and ought to repent and become a Christian and that I ought to do it now." But have you really considered what is implied in these admissions? you are naked, speechless, and without excuse in the presence of God!
I remark again. Though sinners deny, as they often do in theory, their ability to obey God, they know it, and while they admit they are sinners and have done wrong, their consciences convict them of wrong, and assure them that they might have done right. Now take any case whatever where a sinner has done that for which he condemns himself--he sees it is wrong--that he ought not to have done it. Now in that very case he assumes that it was possible for him not to have done it; he would never admit having done wrong in a certain case if he knew that he had no power to do otherwise than he did too. In any and every case where a moral agent believes he could not have done differently, he will justify the course he took. It is of no use for a man to pretend to believe that by outward circumstances he is irresistibly propelled along a certain track; God has so constructed his mind that he cannot believe it. He may wind himself up in sophistries; still, however, his own nature will speak, out and tell him that it is a downright lie from beginning to end. Let him go and commit a crime and then try to justify himself if he can. He cannot do it. Let him go and commit murder, or any other crime; he cannot, for his life, conceal from himself his wickedness. He may bring up this doctrine of fatality, but it is of no use; he cannot satisfy his conscience with it. There is something within him tells him, "You are to blame. You ought to have done otherwise and might have done otherwise." This pursues him wherever he goes; there is always a sentinel from God, a witness which will speak out, and tell him that he lies just as often as he attempts to justify himself. See him go along in the dark! What is the matter with him? His hair stands up on end, what ails the man? Why does not a horse feel such terrors as this? Because he is not a moral agent, and has not got written in his mind those great facts which are written in the mind of man. See that individual try to persuade himself into the belief that there is no hell, judgment, or final retribution! There is, after all, within him that which causes an awful sound in his ear, and his soul, when he is in darkness and in secret places quakes within him.
Further, if sinners really and truly believed in their excuses, they would not admit the obligation and necessity of repentance. Take a man, for instance, who honestly believed he could not do better than he does, would he not at once tell you that he has nothing to repent about? He cannot honestly tell you anything else. He meets you at once with a full and flat denial of his moral obligation. He would say, "God cannot send me to hell for I do not deserve it. God cannot, with justice, shut me out of heaven." Again, he would not be afraid to die. He would say, "Why do you think I am afraid to meet a God of justice? Not I. God has nothing against me. He has no right to have, and I am therefore not afraid to die." Tell him to repent and be converted. "I have no need," says he, "I am right already." If they sincerely believed in the excuses, they would no more condemn themselves than a windmill. If they really believed they were machines, their consciences would never be disturbed. But the fact is, men assume and know that they are not machines in any such sense as not to be free and accountable. They can never, for their lives, escape the conviction that they are both free and accountable.
Again. If they believed that men were machines, they would not blame the conduct of others. If you are sincere in professing this, if a man knock you, or take away your wife, your child, or any of your property, you cannot blame him; for how can he help it? He is a mere machine. How could he help it? Why, if you really believe you are machines, you could no more blame a man for knocking you down in the streets than you could blame the arm of a windmill for knocking you down. If you are knocked down by the arm of a windmill, why not blame it? Because you cannot assume that it was to blame; it is a mere machine, and you pick yourself up as well as you can and go away. But why blame a man, when according to this idea of yours, he is not the least more culpable? But can this infidel in his heart believe this? No! I say he cannot. He cannot show to mankind, or even to himself, that man is not a moral agent. It is a remarkable fact that this law is always true to itself; you could not for an instant think of blaming the windmill, but notwithstanding your theory, in your heart you blame the man, because after all, you actually believe that he is a moral agent. When infidels can carry out this absurdity practically--really admitting and feeling that a man is no more responsible for his actions than a windmill--then we have a right to believe that they think so, but not till then.
It is therefore of the greatest importance that all men should question themselves as to their own deep convictions. I love to sound, as it were, the deepest recesses of my own mind, to see what will come up--to trace back the logical connection of my own thoughts, admissions, in order to see what must lie as an eternal, necessarily known principle in my own mind, by which I must be eternally judged. Oh! are men going to the judgment seat, the great white throne, when the Judge is to appear and take his seat, and all the universe shall tremble before him? What are the books to be opened! First, mark me, the Book of the Laws of your own nature, wherein by the pencil of inspiration, was written at creation itself the immutable law which enforced on you the knowledge of your moral agency, and responsibility to God. God will question first your own conscience, your deepest nature, for he knows its laws--and it will rise up and testify against you. You will carry this self-condemner with you into hell if you go, and it will never perish! Thus will Christ say--"Out of thine own mouth will I judge thee, thou wicked servant."
Now, dying sinner, what is your remedy! What will you do when he says, "As for these men who try to excuse themselves, bring them out here, and slay them before me!" Now, do you say to yourselves, "well, if this is true, my case is hopeless?" Now you know better. The fact you are saying this is a mere shuffle of your wicked heart. Here is Christ that uttered this parable, who has committed to you this talent, and now he says, "Consecrate it to me. From this hour unroll the napkin!" Ah! but perhaps you have spent some of it! Have you? Indeed! then you are worse than the individual in the text, for he did keep all that was entrusted to him! Ah! how much of it have you spent? How old are you? Oh! see those grey hairs on you! Have you burned out life's lamp, and left nothing but a smoking wick? You have served the devil, then, all your days! Indeed! Then, when God comes, you cannot even unfold the napkin and say, "here is the pound that thou gavest me." No! You have carried over all this money--all these powers all this time, and all this influence with which God did so kindly endow you, and gone over and squandered it in the service of his greatest enemy the devil! Have you, indeed?
Well, your case is a bad one! But mark me, dying sinner,--can you believe it? notwithstanding this is even so, that bleeding hand is held out, and Christ is saying, "Come! Come! Come! All things are ready, and always have been." But now will you come to Christ and consecrate the little remnant that is left? How much is then left? Some of you are young, and have still much time before you, in which you may do something to promote God's glory. But do you wish to serve the devil a little longer? Now does not this look to you ineffably mean in you to speculate on the chance of sinning a little longer, and yet being saved? Ah! does not God's keen eye see that thought? Why not at once come right to God and say, "Lord, here I am--I cannot undo what I have done--I cannot go back to the beginning of my moral existence--but I will come now, and O Lord Jesus, I will devote my all to thee--body, soul, influence, health--all I have and am, and by thy assistance, shall henceforth be consecrated to thy service, in helping forward that great work of love which I have been hitherto hindering by my sin."
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REFUGES OF LIES.
preached on Sunday morning, December 15, 1850
by the Rev. C. G. Finney
at the Tabernacle, Moorfields, London.
This lecture was typed in by Ron Neely.
Reformatted by Katie Stewart
"The hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place." --Isaiah xxviii.17.
A refuge is, of course, a place to which resort is had in time of distress; a place of protection and security against danger. A hiding place, has also attached to it much the same idea--a place in which an individual secures himself against danger. The figure used in the text is a hailstorm, a sweeping hailstorm that carries all before it, even the places of refuge into which people have run for shelter from its desolating power; and so great is the flood that it fills up all the low places, the caves, the hiding places, to which they have betaken themselves.
The connection in which these words are found is very simple: they were addressed by the prophet Isaiah to the Jewish church; who were, of course, professors of religion, professing to be saints. At the ninth verse he says-- "Whom shall he teach knowledge? and whom shall he make to understand doctrine? them that are weaned from the milk, and drawn from the breasts. For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept, line upon line, line upon line, here a little, and there a little; for with stammering lips and another tongue will he speak to this people. To whom he said, this is the rest wherewith ye cause the weary to rest; and this is the refreshing that ye would not hear. But the word of the Lord was unto them precept upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little; that they might go and fall backward, and be broken and snared, and taken." God was determined to leave them wholly without excuse; if they would deceive themselves, they must bear the guilt and punishment, he had by the mouth of his prophets set them "line upon line, and precept upon precept. Wherefore hear the word of the Lord, ye scornful men, that rule this people which is in Jerusalem"--that is the religious rulers of those days--"because ye have said we have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement." They thought they were sure of their salvation; that they were God's people; they regarded themselves as being justified and accepted in so high a sense that they were ready to say, "we have made a covenant with death, and with hell are we at agreement." "When the overflowing scourge shall pass through, it shall not come unto us: for we have made lies our refuge, and under falsehood have we hid ourselves; therefore, thus saith the Lord God, behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious corner stone, a sure foundation: he that believeth shall not make haste. Judgment also will I lay to the line, and righteousness to the plummet: and the hail shall sweep away the refuge of lies, and the waters shall overflow the hiding place. And your covenant with death shall be disannulled, and your agreement with hell shall not stand; when the overflowing scourge shall pass through, then ye shall be trodden down by it. From the time that it goeth forth it shall take you: for morning by morning shall it pass over, by day and by night: and it shall be a vexation only to understand the report. For the bed is shorter than that a man can stretch himself on it: and the covering narrower than he can wrap himself in it." A figure representing the character of their righteousness--their religion upon which they placed so much dependence,--it was like a bed "so short that a man could not stretch himself on it; and the covering narrower than that he can wrap himself in it." Thus their religion which they depended upon was utterly inefficient. "For the Lord shall rise up as in mount Perazim, he shall be wroth as in the valley of Gibeon, that he may do his work, his strange work; and bring to pass his act, his strange act. Now therefore be ye not mockers, lest your bands be made strong; for I have heard from the Lord God of hosts, a consumption, even determined upon the whole earth." The prophet delivers this very solemn message, and he warns the people from dissembling,--for that is the true idea of "mocking" in this place--do not dissemble, he says, do not play the hypocrite, do not deceive yourselves; "for I have heard from the Lord God of Hosts, a consumption, even determined upon the whole earth."
My object this morning is to point out some of those refuges to which men betake themselves in our day, and shew that they are really refuges of lies. It is oftimes of great importance to have the attention called directly to those refuges to which men are in danger of betaking themselves, and to which too many do betake themselves. It is very remarkable to what an extent men will deceive themselves on the subject of religion. In connection with this subject, more than any other, we find the most remarkable cases of self-delusion: they are so very remarkable sometimes, as to appear altogether incredible, that men with reason and in possession of the Bible, should ever betake themselves to such refuges--should by any possibility make themselves believe that in the way they take, they are even likely to get to heaven.
I shall not have time to notice a great many of the present prevailing forms of
error and sin, but I will advert to a few that are very common amongst men. The first
thing that I notice, as a false refuge in which many indulge, is a selfish religion.
And here let me say--I am sorry to be able to say it--that the longer I live, and
the more acquaintance I have with men in general, and especially with professing
Christians, the more am I afflicted with this conviction, that multitudes are perfectly
mistaken with regard to the nature of religion--with great multitudes it is only
a form of selfishness. A whole sermon might be occupied on this subject, but I must
make only a very few remarks upon it. Let me say, selfishness in any form is in exact
opposition to religion. It makes no difference as to the type which selfishness puts
on. The question is, does a man make his own interest the object of pursuit? If so,
such conduct is the exact opposite of that benevolence which Christ manifested, when
he laid himself out for the good of mankind and the glory of God. He lived not to
please himself, but to please God. And the Apostle says, "look not every man
on his own things, but every man also on the things of others." Indeed, everywhere,
both in the law and the gospel, religion--true religion, is presented to us as disinterested
benevolence. By disinterested benevolence of course I do not mean a want of interest
in the great subject of salvation itself; but I mean that we should be religious
not from any selfish motives or reasons, but that we should love God for what God
is, and that we should love our neighbours as we love ourselves. Supreme devotion
to God; to God's interest as supreme, and to his nature as a God of holiness. Where
there is true religion it will manifest itself, in prayer, praise, and obedience.
It will manifest itself with respect to God in efforts to please him, to honour him,
and to glorify him, and an earnest desire to secure the love, confidence and obedience
of all men. Now this must be naturally so. With respect to man, true religion will
manifest itself, in simplicity of character, in seeking the good of all men, in caring
for them as we care for ourselves; in caring for their interests as we care for our
own interests; in caring for their salvation as we care for our own salvation; rejoicing
in their prosperity as we would in our own, sympathizing with their afflictions,
as if they were our own--in a word, there will be a setting ourselves with a single
eye to promote the interests of mankind and the glory of God. Now this is the natural
result of faith in Christ.
All selfishness is sin. But mark! it is not selfishness for a man to have a proper regard for his own salvation; but it is for him to regard his own salvation only and care not for the salvation of his neighbour. Suppose a man cares ever so much about his own salvation, but cares not for the salvation of his neighbour, this is supreme selfishness right on the face of it; and the more intensely anxious a man is about his own soul, if he cares nothing about the salvation of his neighbour, the more intensely selfish he is.
This should always be understood. Men that are very regular at the means of grace, and who make their own salvation a matter of deep concern, but who after all care little or nothing for the salvation of others, are deceiving themselves--trusting in a false refuge. Why it is perfectly plain in such cases that their religion is mere selfishness. For let me ask, where does the Bible allow men to make any separate, selfish interest their great object of pursuit? The teaching of Christ is, "thou shalt love they neighbour as thyself," and Christ himself acted upon this principle, and the apostles did so too; instead of making their own enjoyment, happiness, or salvation the great end of pursuit, they laid themselves out for the good of the world. And further, this is the true way for a man to secure his own salvation; by caring for the salvation of others. "Whosoever will save his life," said Christ, "shall lose it; but whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it."
Now it should always be remembered therefore, that all religion which terminates upon ourselves, or upon our friends, whom we regard as parts of ourselves, is a religion of supreme selfishness, and not the religion of the Bible--but the exact opposite. Now a great many persons fall into this mistake. They think that persons may be selfish in religion and be real Christians. They know that when men are worldly, engrossed with the world, why of course, that is not religion, but most admit that. But when individuals are found at the meeting, and found at the ordinance, especially, and are found saying their prayers, for themselves, and those who are parts of themselves,--they are thought to be very pious! But this is a grand mistake; for after all they have not escaped the narrow circle of their own selfishness. Selfishness has changed its type, to be sure; it was once worldly, directed to some worldly object, glory, wealth, character, or something else; but some circumstance led them to change their course, and now they have begun to care about religion, but they are just as selfish now as when they were in the world--the form of selfishness is changed, but the principle is not removed. Before, they speculated out of men; and now they attempt to speculate out of God! They set themselves, before, to make something out of men; and now they set themselves to make something out of God! Instead of having come into sympathy with the benevolence of God; instead of having laid themselves on the altar, they are as selfish as ever. They are as selfish in seeking to secure their own salvation as they would be to secure a worldly estate. The end they have in view is a selfish end. I will tell you how it may be known, right on the face of it, whether a man, professing to be religious, is a selfish man. When he was engaged in worldly matters, his object was entirely self: how much he could make for himself--all his bargains and tradings were to this end. If he cared about a man's bankruptcy, it was for some selfish reason; in the hope that he would be able to make something out of it. Look at a selfish man in trade, he cares only for his own business; he does not "look also on the things of others," according to the apostle's injunction: while trying to please himself, and to benefit himself.
Now he becomes what is called a religious man: well, look at him now, is he any more really benevolent in his religion than he was in his business? Does he give any indications of his selfishness having been given up? Suppose he observed the business relations of society: why it was his interest to do so, he had a good reason for it. Look at the man when he has become a religious man, after he has been introduced to the church of God, if you please; and what proofs does he exhibit that he had undergone a radical change? Does he care for his own salvation? Is he labouring for the salvation of others? Is he anxious for others? Does he pray for others, care for others, rejoice with others? Does he mourn over the desolations of Zion? Has he come into full sympathy with Christ? Does he feel a deep concern for the souls that are around him? Does he care nothing for worldly things, only so far as they may be made the instruments of saving the souls of men? Does he pray for grace that he may be useful; that he may be able to save souls, pulling them out of the fire, and is he engaged in building up the true church of God? Now you can easily see if you have fled to a refuge of lies in this respect. Have you felt awakenings of soul when you have heard or read of the awful things that God has said about the wicked? Has his hand come near you, and stricken down a companion, a friend, a neighbour, and has your heart awakened from your dream of worldly mindedness? Have you been led to see that life is short and death is near, and that a solemn judgment is to follow? Have you understood the value of religion? and further, have you so studied its nature as to see that the starting point is a firm resolution in regard to the great end of your life? That to begin, you must renounce self, and live for God: if not, you are self-sufficient still, and know nothing about religion at all. Suppose that you are selfish in religious matters instead of worldly matters, what are you the better? There is no real difference, which you will see if you think of it. Selfishness has put on a new type, but the man is not new, and therefore you are none the better. Selfishness may often change its type. It puts on one form in the child, another in youth, and another in manhood. It is manifested in ambition, the love of fame, the love of character, the love of power, and so on. I might chase these things down from one stage to another, and selfishness would everywhere unfold itself. In almost every man's history we should find that at some period of his life it puts on a religious type, sometimes in youth, and sometimes in riper age. Observe, that against which I would warn you is this--making such a mistake as to suppose that religion at all consists in mere attention to religious things, but from selfish motives, always terminating at last upon self.
Let me say in the next place. Another refuge of lies to which mankind betake themselves
is religious impulse. By this I mean they are excited purely by their feelings.
This is a prevailing form of selfishness. This delusion consists in appealing to
the feelings instead of to God's law as developed in the conscience and reason. Such
persons as these think themselves very religious, because they feel deeply upon the
subject. You will very often hear persons when spoken to on the subject of religion,
say something about their feelings--they will tell you that they feel
so and so; but take away their feelings and they have no religion. Now mark! I call
this a religion of impulse, because it is not a religion of principle. These people
become religious in proportion as their own feelings are excited; bring them under
exciting means, and they are very religious. Nay! strongly excite them, and they
will do almost anything; excite and rouse their feelings, and you can carry them
along. But let the circumstances subside which excited their feelings, and you see
that they have not the root of the matter within them.
Now it is remarkable to what an extent we see the religion of impulse prevail--they are wonderfully religious while excitement prevails; but let it be swept away by neglect of the means of grace, and they will be very dull, and know very little about piety. If they do attend to means at all, it will perhaps be only the communion. Perhaps they will be superstitious enough to hold on to the ordinance--for there is a vast deal of this in every country that I have visited. Persons who are not really religious in their daily life, will yet make a point of appearing at the ordinance. Now it is very evident that such persons have no religion, and they make an ordinance of religion a refuge of lies in which they trust. They are like the Roman Catholics, who are very careful about attending to their Masses--they make attention to ordinances one of the prominent features of their religion. Now let me tell you right here--and you may set it down as a universal truth, that wherever the prominent feature of a person's religion is attendance upon ordinances, it is a sure sign that he is not a Christian. What are ordinances? They are the means of perpetuating certain truths in the world. The design of the Lord's Supper was to perpetuate the remembrance of the Lord's death. "As often," said the apostle, "as ye eat this bread, and drink this cup, ye do shew the Lord's death till he come." It is symbolic and commemorative: the same by baptism. They commemorate two great truths, and are very important as such; but no Christian makes them his religion. He is not sanctified by baptism and the Lord's Supper, but by the reality which they represent. He has got the reality in his own heart--he leans on Christ, he feeds on Christ, he loves to commemorate the ordinances of Christ;--but mark! if he is not self-denying, prayerful, anxious for the salvation of others, and making efforts for this end, but merely cares about ordinances, he is not religious, but merely superstitious. Look at the Roman Catholics for example--and I do not wish it to be supposed that I mean to say no Roman Catholic is pious, for some of them may be, and doubtless are--who make ordinances the chief feature of their religion; and the same may be said of some other denominations to a considerable extent. They make so much of their mass, and of the ordinances, that instead of laying themselves out to do good, instead of leading holy lives, instead of being religious in everything, why their religion is confined to certain ceremonies. Now mark, this is an infinite mistake--religion is not a form, it is not an ordinance, it is a life. True religion must, from its very nature, show itself in a man's business as well as in his prayers. Nay! inasmuch as his business occupies six-sevenths of his time, the principal place in which to see his religion, if he has any--is in the daily walk of life. It will be seen there the most, if he has any.
Now if you see persons religious on the Sabbath day; religious in ordinances; religious in particular forms, but not in their everyday life, you may be quite sure that their religion is mere superstition-nothing else. Some men are very particular in attending to what they call their religious duties. They make a distinction between religious duties and their duties to their fellow men. Now this is a fundamental mistake, for mark me! a man who does not live a religious life cannot be religious on the Sabbath; if he is not religious in his business, he cannot be religious at the communion, and he has no more business to be there than the devil has--not a bit more! If he is not religious in his daily business, he has no more right to be at the table of the Lord than those harlots have who spend their lives in abominations too horrible to be mentioned.
Now this is no new doctrine! This is no American heresy! It is God's naked truth! If you don't believe it, you have fled to a refuge of lies.
But let me say again: others have a mere religion of opinion, which is just the opposite of a religion of impulse. The religion of impulse implies that a man feels strongly, and he acts in accordance with his feelings. But right over against this is the religion of opinion, which is another refuge of lies. These men hold very strongly a set of opinions--right or wrong they hold on to them. These opinions do not mould their lives nevertheless; but they hold the doctrines, the opinions, and make a great deal of them; yet they don't obey the commands involved in them. They live very careless and worldly lives, but no matter how corrupt, they think themselves to be Christians. But their religion is a mere matter of opinion, a mere question of doctrines, a mere holding on to certain dogmas, that do not mould, and fashion, and influence the life: dogmas that lie in their minds, but have never come into sympathy with their hearts; and while this is the case with men, they are only trusting in a refuge of lies: they have no real religion. They make much of their orthodoxy. They cannot bear to hear a word said that does not accord with their particular notions of orthodoxy. They come to meeting, and they hear a sermon, and when it chimes in with their views, they say it is sound doctrine. Now the question is, do these doctrines affect their hearts? If so, it is well; but if it is otherwise, then sound doctrine is only leading them the shortest road to hell. Their orthodoxy is the most direct road to hell, because they are living in the full blaze of light. They will speculate about doctrines, but they make no efforts to pull sinners out of the fire, and to build up the kingdom of Christ. They are selfish, and close fisted; you would think that they were holding their worldly possessions with a death grasp. Now mark, they are very orthodox, and you cannot offend them more than by touching their orthodox, but they are not living for God, and are not laying themselves out for the salvation of men--they live for themselves, and are maintainers of certain opinions; and if the doctrines which are involved in them were taken to the heart and moulded to life, they would stand forth as beautiful specimens of Christianity. But I repeat, much of the religious opinion is only a refuge of lies.
But another refuge of lies is the religion of sectarianism. I have seem much of this, and might tell of much. We see this largely in the Romish church, for she tells everybody not within her communion that they will go to hell; but it is not confined to that church; it is the doctrine of every church, who says that in their church only is salvation to be obtained. One particular sect sets itself up and claims to have apostolic succession, and everybody who is not of it is out of the church--that church is right, and every other church is wrong. When these sectarians, to whatever party they belong, speak of "the church," they do not mean the congregation of believers in every community, but their particular system or form which they call "the church." In this country, I believe that most of those who claim to themselves the right of being called the church, do admit that Dissenters from them may be Christians; and Dissenters will not deny that there may be good people in the church which is established by law in this land. But mark! there is a vast deal of zeal that is mere sectarianism. Really, I have been astonished sometimes in this country to hear ministers "thank God for Methodism." I do not know how many times I have heard that! The first meeting that I attended in England was a missionary meeting, especially connected with the Wesleyan body, and I was astonished and appalled at the first that so much was said about the glory of Methodism; thanking God for Methodism, and so on. I had not been in the habit of hearing such things in a missionary meeting, and it struck me as very astonishing that they should have invited people of different communities to be present, and talk thus while they knew that the very man who occupied the chair was not a Methodist! They had got together a multitude of people not belonging to their section of the church, in order to take up a collection for the missionary cause, and yet there was so much glorifying of Methodism! I did not rebuke it at the time, but I felt it, and I have since made up my mind, that if I ever hear it again under such circumstance, or any other, I will rebuke it! I will rebuke either the glorifying of Methodism, or the putting forward of any other species of sectarianism whatever, when Christianity ought to have been the theme. It is not to be tolerated. It is no part of religion. For my life I cannot enter with zeal into any efforts to build up any particular sect. I have my own notions, but I know that others hold opinions different from mine, with as much honesty as I hold mine. I do not mean therefore that I have no particular opinions, but I will not glorify any particular denomination, and spend my life in building up a party. There is a vast deal too much of this party spirit, and what is the effect? Selfishness of heart, and no openness of soul--no going out for the salvation of the world. I do not mean to say that I do not regard any of the distinctions which prevail as of any importance, because I do; but I do not regard them of such importance as to merge everything in their favour. I can respect the gospel and myself too, and therefore I cannot devote my time to the building up of a sect. The salvation of men is the great question! The salvation of men's souls is the first concern! Do not lay too much stress upon sectarian differences. Make your great aim the good of souls and the glory of God!
But let me say once more: another refuge of lies is having regard to what is outward, the performance of certain external actions without love to God in the heart. Religion is often, with many people, only a mere outward act; there is no spiritual life in the heart. This is ungodliness, in the true sense of the word which means unlikeness to God!
There are a vast many men who think themselves very religious because they pay their debts. They make a great deal of that. If you question them about their lives, they have everything on which to pride themselves. But is honesty Christianity? There are many infidels who are amiable in their daily life, and are honest towards their fellow men, and are what are called good neighbours, good husbands, good wives--persons who in their intercourse with men, may be depended on in worldly matters; men whose opinions are sound on worldly questions, men who are trustworthy in business; and they are all this upon a worldly principle, and for a worldly motive. Now let me say that these things are all needful in a certain sense; but I say also that in all this there is no virtue; there is not a particle of piety in it, as there is no recollection and recognition of the claims of God, no living to God, for if there were, it would express itself in prayer and praise, and in all those forms of sympathy with God, which piety always puts on. There must be supreme love to God wherever this is true piety. And mark! There will always be true love to man wherever there is real love to God.
Let not men deceive themselves, and suppose that because they are moral, they have done all that is required of them! Suppose a man is exempted from punishment, is he fitted for heaven? Has he come into sympathy with God? Is he prepared to enjoy God? could he dwell happily with the righteous in heaven? What sort of place could heaven be if you could enjoy it? You have not come into sympathy with Christ; you reject Christ; you reject the Sabbath; you reject the Holy Ghost; and can you think that a supposed morality will answer your turn? Let me warn you to flee away from such a refuge of lies as that!
Let me say before I sit down to those who profess to be religious, who profess to be born of God. Is your religion a thing which can be known? Do your neighbours know it? Does your family know it? or are you hiding somewhere? behind some refuge of lies? Have you got behind that deacon? for you may make a refuge of lies of him! Have you got behind your minister? for you may make a refuge of lies of him! Don't hide yourselves anywhere! Be satisfied with nothing but Christ. Don't get behind that woman! Put no false standard before you. Set no standard but Christ before you! Be satisfied with no opinions that don't mould your life. Be satisfied with no religion that is not the life of your souls. Flee away from every source of error, every refuge of lies, and trust only in that which will mold your character, sanctify your life, and make you blessed forever. I beg of you to think upon these things.
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THE SPIRIT CEASING TO STRIVE
preached on Sunday evening, December 15, 1850
by the Rev. C. G. Finney
at the Tabernacle, Moorfields, London.
This lecture was typed in by Ron Neely.
Reformatted by Katie Stewart
"And the Lord said, My spirit shall not always strive with man." --Genesis vi. 3
The following is the train of thought which I design to pursue:
II. What is intended by the Spirit's "Striving" with man!
III. How may we know when he is striving with us!
IV. What is meant by "shall not always strive!"
2. The consequences of his ceasing to strive.
These two things are implied in the assertion of our text; first, that God's Spirit strives with man at least sometimes, and consequently that men do resist him always when there is strife; whenever the Spirit is obliged to strive with a man in order to influence him, why then, of course, resistance is implied. It should always be understood that whenever the Spirit can really be said to "strive" with an individual, that individual must be resisting. But what is intended by his striving? This striving, then, I would observe, is not a physical striving, but a moral influence, persuading, reasoning and convincing. This is the striving; it is a striving of mind with mind, and not of body with body. The process spoken of in the text is the presentation of truth on one side, and the resistance of it on the other. But if this is so, how do we know when the Spirit strives with us?
First, then, let me say, we cannot know this by a direct perception of his agency. The mind does not see the Holy Spirit himself, but it perceives the truth which the spirit presents; for, observe the "striving" referred to is the pressing of considerations upon the mind to influence it, and the "resistance" spoken of is the resistance to the reception of these truths. In inquiring into the evidences of the Spirit striving with man, we must see what are these particular truths which are thus presented to the mind, and which call forth this "resistance? " We are informed in the Bible what it is that the Spirit of God does _ he reproves of sin, for example. Christ promised he should do this, and that he should "take of the things of Christ and show them" to mankind. One of the signs by which men are made conscious that the Spirit is working within them is, the arresting of their attention to the subject of religious truth-- they find these things fermenting in their minds and pressing upon them. Perhaps when they read or attend to business, do what they will the subject is always coming up. If they reasoned on the subject, they could come to no other conclusion than that there was some invisible agency at work within them which kept the matter incessantly before them; it seems to occupy their minds more than ever it did before. They feel an internal conviction of its light, its power, and its reality in a manner of which they had hitherto no conception. This is the striving of the Spirit.
Again, conviction of the sinfulness of one's conduct is another sign of the operations of the Spirit within. When men feel the sinfulness of their course of life, that is the striving of the Spirit. Men often go on in sin without reflecting on the sinfulness of what they are doing; but, by and by, the wickedness of their ways seems to have gained their attention. Looking back on their general conduct, and especially on particular acts, they see their sinfulness; things now come frequently up in their minds and trouble them which had passed unthought of, it may be for years, and when remembered, were not regarded by them as sins. But now they appear to regard them from a different point, and see their error. In some cases there will be a general sense of their sinfulness, of their whole lives-- in others, particular acts will stand out and display themselves in a new and sinful light. This is an evident sign of the striving of the Spirit. When persons are striven with by the Spirit, they are not always greatly alarmed at the realization of their dangerous position, though this is sometimes the case. Sometimes the Spirit does not strive with men because they think so little of their danger, so that they eventually come to fear the results of the Spirit's not striving more with them. The Spirit often gives such persons a distinct and awful glimpse of the exposure of their position.
Again; there are certain forms of sin to which some men are apt to be exceedingly blind; and when these persons are striven with by the Spirit, they come suddenly to a clear perception of this blindness under which they have been labouring. Without this striving these men are very apt to become self-righteous; and when they do feel intensely they are apt to resist and hold out against the Spirit, while all the time they give themselves credit for the possession of these tender feelings. Now it often happens that the Spirit drives off all this by allowing them to become so alarmingly hardened as to find that even these tender feelings on which they were wont to pride themselves have disappeared. Up to the very hour of their surrendering to God this hardness sometimes increases, till they begin to perceive that they never had so little feeling on the subject of religion; their hearts are as hard as adamant. The Spirit often shows these men that they have been mistaking the mere excitement of their feelings for tenderness of heart. Sometimes he convicts them of their unbelief, and shows them that they did not in reality place reliance on God--that they actually placed more reliance on what man said than on what God said. Men are influenced by each other's testimony, and if a man promises to another that he will do thus and thus, his friends believe and trust him and act accordingly. Now ask this man, Do you believe the Bible? Oh! yes, he believes the Bible. But is he influenced by what it promises, as much as he is by what men promise? No, indeed. Let a man come and warn you of your danger, would you not believe and act? If a man should promise you aid, would you not be relieved and comforted by it? If a man gave you a promissory note, as the donor was a man of property, would you not naturally expect to have it paid? But you do not believe God in these respects, yet you are apt to think that you do believe God; but the Spirit at length shows you that you are more comforted by men's promises than by God's--that God's promises in reality afford you very little satisfaction--in fact, that you are actually not at all influenced by what God says, as you are by what men say; when, therefore, you thus come to see the sin of this unbelief, you may rest assured that the Holy Spirit is striving with you.
Again: he convinces men of their enmity against God. Few men think themselves enemies of God and of religion, even if they do profess themselves to be Christians. It is very common where persons have made a profession of religion, got into the church, and yet are not true Christians; I have observed that if they are not given up of God and become reprobates, if God intends to save them, God convinces them that, in reality, they are enemies of religion. Now you can all see the necessity of this. They profess to love religion, and how can they be saved unless they are convinced that they have made a radical mistake? The Spirit often commences by suffering this enmity to develop itself. They begin by complaining, perhaps, of the preaching; it is too severe, too personal, not "comforting" enough, or something of that kind; either the matter does not suit, or the manner is disagreeable; they want something that will make them happy--something "comforting." They say they are Christians, and believe they speak the truth; they feel sure that if the preaching were what it ought to be, it would be sure to edify and "comfort" them. But God does not mean they should feel so, if he ever intends to save them. They are in a state of delusion, and anything that would make them happy, in this state, would only confirm their delusion; and consequently, God always so directs the preaching and everything as to make it set on them in such a manner as to show them clearly what has, by a great mistake, hitherto been covered up--the enmity of their hearts towards God.
Sometimes I have been struck by the extent to which this has been the case in revivals of religion. Some member of the church, to the astonishment of their ministers, begin to oppose the movement, finding fault with this thing and with that thing; they stay away from their services, go here and go there where they can be "comforted." But the Spirit of God continues to strive with them, and keeps them uneasy, being determined to root out the enmity of their hearts. They come to meeting again and again, and go mumbling away with something more unpalatable than ever; they become each time less "comfortable." Ah! they think "this is not the gospel, for it does not 'comfort' them." How strange everything appears to them! Ah! this is the very way in which the Spirit works; he is determined to drag them out of their hiding places and unmask them. It is curious how long this oftimes goes on till every one but themselves can see it. The very preaching that is moving the masses to inquire and leading numbers to God, all! they "are not edified with it at all."
But do you not see there is a divine philosophy in all this? Oh! yes. These persons are sometimes very numerous in a church; pastors are often astonished to see so many of their members cavil and object. They object all the more, by how much the more powerful it comes home to them. By and by the pastor and deacons look on in amazement to see their members running hither and thither in such confusion. "What's the matter? What's the matter?" why the truth does not sit well on that unbroken heart! They writhe and writhe, finding this fault and that fault, till by and by, they see they do not really love the preaching that God loves-- that they are, in fact, at enmity with God. Ah! I have seen them turn pale at such times; but by and by the fact comes out. "Oh! I thought I was a Christian! I have been so many years a member of the church, and yet I find that I stand before God condemned! I see that God and I are at issue--that God loves what I hate, and blesses what I oppose!" Ah! Now this is exactly the way the Spirit of God would take with such persons.
I have often heard, when preaching at various places, "Why, there's such and such a professor saving so and so." But by and by, you will see evidently that the truth is coming home, and hitting him hard. Why, see! he's all in a "squerm" again. Pray for him! What's the matter with him? What has been said--any untruth? "Oh, no, but he seems to think you are so personal." Ah! does he. Pray for him! God has got hold of him. He thinks that the minister and all the people are looking right at him; that he is speaking to him personally, and that all the congregation knows it. "Why," said a man to me one day, "it seemed as if not only did you look at me, and mean me, but that everybody knew it and looked at me." Now this is just what God does; and if you see a man begin to "squerm," pray for him. Do not be frightened. "Ah!" says a woman, "why, how my husband is offended! He thinks you are personal." Oh, does he; well, pray for him! Do not you see that he is clearly striving against the reception of the truths? "Why?" "Because," says he, "it means me." Does it? Then do not you resist it? Oh! I like to get upon the track of such persons, and hunt them out. I like to follow them and hunt them up, and search them out, till they are broken down. This is the way the Holy Spirit does; he is very personal, and makes the truth personal. He directs the mind of the preacher in such a manner as to make it stick close to an individual he wishes to move; thus it is that people get the impression that the preacher knows them and their history, and think somebody must have been telling him about them. During my thirty years experience, persons have often told me this, whereas it was nothing else than the Almighty directing my thoughts in a certain channel, in order to meet their case. God knew them, although I did not. My bow was drawn at a venture, but God directed the arrow, and it found its way through the joints of their harness; and they were "not comforted." "Not comforted!" Why, the gospel was never made to comfort you in your unsanctified state.
This is also very often the case with merely moral men, who help by their means to support religious institutions; such men are very apt to overlook the fact that they are enemies to God; and therefore, God must in some way show it to them. How is he to do it? They are almost Christians in their own opinion. Their religious wives say--"Oh! I have great hope of him." How often has this been the case. But God sees their real state. They do not come out and acknowledge Christ publicly. God knows there is a rotten heart there. They are amiable, and their exterior is lovely; God must make them know themselves by a course of teaching, preaching, providences, or some other method, and thus take off the veil from their hearts. This being done, they begin to writhe and act in the way the professors just spoken of are accustomed to act. "They are not going there to be preached at in that way, when they are doing so much to aid religion. To be treated in such a manner they think is very personal and abusive." It is very hard, they cannot bear it, although they do not, and cannot deny its truth. By and by you will see them writhe. This shows that there is a sediment at the bottom of their hearts; stir it up. Do not be afraid. Pray for them. If you find your unchristian husband begin to squerm, and threaten not to go to meeting, do not ride with him, and say you think he has reason to be offended. If you do not want to ruin his soul, do not take his part. "Oh! " say to him, "Is it true? then you ought to receive it. Is it true of you? you are bound to receive it; for if it means you, and you do not receive it, what will become of you? What! you confess it is true, and true of you, and yet refuse to receive it!" Be careful what you do under such circumstances; for wherever persons thus quarrel with truth, they are, in reality, quarrelling with God. Mark that. But these people often pretend that it is not the truth they quarrel with, but the offensive manner in which it is said. Now mark. Take care what you do. A real lover of truth is willing to receive it, though it is not on a golden dish.
And the way in which God convinces the sinner of the danger of his dying in sin, is, by impressing him with the fact that he has not long to live. He feels that others around are dying in their sins, that he himself has lived a long time in his sin, and he begins to calculate on probabilities, and to apply it to himself. This often is used as a means of inducing decision, or at least, of greatly deepening previous impressions. And the mode in which the Spirit operates is to warn men of the danger of his leaving them. At other times he shows them that they are actually ashamed of Christ--ashamed to have it known that they think of being religious--ashamed to talk even to their wives, or open their mind to their minister-- ashamed to be seen reading the Bible, or to have it known that their minds are exercised on the subject. Persons in this state are afraid of being supposed to be serious, and therefore often laugh and try to conceal it, while at heart they are full of soreness and distress. But this shows them more and more that they are ashamed of Christ; and they begin to perceive their pride of heart and the awful wickedness of the position they occupy in relation to God.
Sometimes the Spirit operates by leaving men wholly without excuse. Every plea they have been accustomed to urge is swept from under them. They have none left to hide behind as they were wont to do. The Spirit follows them in their excuses, and strips them off one by one, till he has silenced them all; and they turn them over and over, one after the other, but cannot find one to rest upon. The Spirit thus strove with me for months before I was aware of it; but at length I found as I fled from one excuse to another; but my mind would answer each as it rose. Thus the Spirit undermines all my fortifications, till I had not a single apology to make for my conduct. Now mark. Perhaps this very process is going on with some of you. How is it? If you feel that I am personal, see if the truth sits well upon you. If you find that any particular truth does not sit well upon you, whatever your character may be in a general way, rely upon it that you are at war at least with that one truth; and if at war with truth, you are at war with God.
Persons are sometimes convinced by seeing that they have been altogether selfish. Selfishness is sin; and all sin is selfishness in some form. Persons often see that their very religion has hitherto been selfishness; they can see clearly that they are not in sympathy with God and with Christ--that they have not the spirit of Christ within them--that they are not living to and for God--and that they are utterly selfish in their business, and even in the relations they sustain to what they call their religion. They are fully convinced of this. Ah! are you convinced of it? Do not resist the light on such questions! Oh! if you shut down the gate, turn your eyes away, and refuse to be convinced you will wake up in the blackness and darkness forever!
Before I leave this subject I ought to say that sinners often get the impression on their minds, that this is the last call God will ever give them. Doubtless the Spirit of God means what he says. In such cases it would be very natural for the Spirit in taking the last struggle with a man, to give him such an impression; it is no doubt common for him to do so. Professors of religion have often seen at such times great reason to doubt whether they were even truly converted, and this impression has been confirmed by a glimpse at their lives. By and bye, perhaps, the Spirit of God impresses them with the idea that if they now resist, they will die in their sins. Now, sinner, when God insinuates such things he is in earnest. The devil does not want you to believe any such things; he would not tell you so if he knew it. It comes from one who cannot lie, and who, in his benevolence, forewarns you that, if you now resist, you are a ruined soul to all eternity.
What is meant by the assertion that the Spirit will "not always strive?" Not, of course, that he will leave the earth; but that he will not always follow a man through the whole of his life, and continue to strive with him to the end of his days.
Why not? First, because it will not do them any good. If, after so many strivings, a man will not repent, why should the Spirit continue to follow him? They are enlightened as much as they need to be enlightened, yet they resist and resist--why then should he continue to strive with them? Again, he forbears to do so in compassion to them. When he has once thrust home these very truths which must convert them, if they ever are converted, he knows that, by a natural law of their minds, the longer they resist the more likely they are to continue resisting. Besides, it would materially enhance their guilt. There is, therefore, no way consistent with his honour in which he can follow them any longer. Again; their guilt is so aggravated under such circumstances--from their striving with God face to face, and resisting--sinning with full light and tempting God's forbearance--these considerations present another reason. They hope God will save them in their sins at some future time, but it would be inconsistent with God's honour to do so. There is a point beyond which it is inconsistent with God's high and adorable sovereignty, that men should continue to resist and quarrel with him face to face. Again, if this were not so, men would take courage and continue in their sins, with the idea that they would be just as likely to have the Spirit strive with them when old as when young; and therefore, to avoid this inference, God's Spirit will not always strive with man. Once more. God needs young persons to be converted, that he may train them up to do good: but if they go on till they have well nigh burnt out the lamp of life, God will, indeed, have compassion on them, if they repent; but how seldom do they repent, under such circumstances! They have wasted their life and can do no good if they are converted; and, having served the devil so long, shall they take the stinking snuff of their expiring lamp--the jaded, putrid remnant of mortality which has resisted the Holy Ghost till the grave is open before them--and cast it, as it were, in the face of the Almighty? But again: it would be bad policy on the part of God's government to convert old people as easily as young ones; it would tend to harden the young in their sins: the general rule, therefore, must be the conversion of the young, while the conversions of the old will be at distances just sufficient in number to keep the aged sinner from utterly despairing.
But we must now proceed to inquire what are the consequences of the Spirit ceasing?
The first consequence, naturally, is confirmed apathy--carelessness and prayerlessness in sin. This the general rule. Another consequence is, continued opposition; after the Spirit of God has convinced persons--when they have related strong convictions--when their consciences have smarted under the force of truth--they hate it. Their very consciences become unfeeling. They can commit sins now without compunction, which once would have filled them with agony--they go on in sin with very little remorse. This, too, is a general rule, as I might show; but in some instances there is the reverse--a fearful looking for of judgment. They often, however, wax worse and worse, until if they do not go out into open apostasy, it is only the fear of their reputation that prevents them. Christians will find themselves losing the spirit of prayer for them. The wife will lose the power to pray for her husband under such circumstances; she loses her hold on the throne of grace for him; and it is the same in the husband towards the wife, the parent towards the child, and the child towards the parent. The Spirit will not lead a man to pray for those who have grieved him away. No means that are used will savingly affect them; they will become more and more opposed to the means, till they finally abandon the use of them, and the evil habits they formerly indulged in, come back strongly upon them.
A few remarks must conclude what I have to say, and the first remark is this: Have you been thus striven with? Did the spirit of cavilling resistance come upon you? Have you felt, at some time, that the minister meant you? Perhaps you have said, "Now, if that minister had known my history, he could not have told it better." Have you been in this state? Have you felt offended at his being so "personal?" I have often thought that there are multitudes of professors of religion who have thoroughly quenched the Spirit; and the reason I think so is this: they are in the church, and hold themselves up in hope, while everybody who knows them, sees that the Spirit of Christ is not within them; if they are searched they feel displeased; there is a want of honesty in their hearts a want of that downright sincerity in religion--there is a slipperiness, carnal policy, quibbling dishonesty, a putting on of religion--still there is something which serves to bolster them up. They are particular to keep themselves in countenance by regular attendance at the administration of the ordinance, lest the minister or deacons should get at the fact of their being in a state of apostasy from God. But try to get them to do anything else, and you cannot secure their co-operation, unless it is where their character is concerned. Ah! they say, here is such a one's name on the book, has he had a communion ticket? How is this? Ah! they have attended to that, and thus they have covered up the rottenness of their heart and their carnal worldly life by going to the communion!
Oh! I do not know if there are any such persons here tonight, but as my mind is strongly pressed in this direction, I fear there are; and if God is now showing you that you ought to be honest with yourselves, do not go on with your deceitful game! I do not know you--but God knows you; I only beg of you not to ruin your soul by cheating yourself on a point so vital. Many professors get into that state that they hear unmoved the truths which smite the hearts of infidels and break them in pieces as a potter's vessel. They sit unmoved, or if moved at all, it is only to opposition. They have no sympathy with the work of God--no care about anybody being converted, even perhaps their own children. I have known churches where some of the members were the most hardened reprobate persons I ever knew in all my life--the most disposed to cavil, and the least disposed to co-operate. You deacons know whether such persons are here to-night; when you meet the man you are now thinking about, do you find him disposed to cavil, or is his heart in the work? You know whose hearts are in the work, and who, you have reason to believe, are hardened in their sins. The fact is on such subjects as this, it is the most awful cruelty not to deal faithfully with such men. I would sooner cut off both my hands than play a silly game with a man about his soul, his sins, and eternity! I have often been astonished to find that while professors cavil, ungodly men have said, "Ah! that's just what we need, let it come! Let us know the truth, and the worst of our case. Let it come burning and boiling till it melts the icebergs of our hearts!"
One word more. When the Spirit strives, men are in great danger of putting off submission day after day till at length the Spirit leaves them. They try to think about religion but do not come to the point. Ah! They do not know the infinite danger they are in of being left amidst all this palavering. Ah! "While thy servant was busy here and there, behold the Spirit was gone." They must wait till they have done this thing or that thing, and thus they go on; day after day the Spirit strives with them till at length he takes his flight. You should reflect that every moment you are resisting, you are in infinite danger of his leaving you. "My Spirit shall not always strive."
Again: when the Spirit strives it is the most solemn point of the sinner's existence. The judgment-day will disclose things which are done in time, but the sinner's destiny is settled here. When the Spirit strives with men he settles with them personally. The work is done up one way or the other, and becomes a matter of record. The leaf is folded and laid aside till the day of judgment; but here is the time and place in which the thing is done--this is the world on which hangs suspended the eternal life or death of immortal souls. But not only is the matter finally settled in this world, but there must be some turning point at which the settlement takes place. What an hour is that! Christian! Do you realize that when the Spirit is striving with your children, they are then at a moment more important to them than any other moment of their whole existence. Are you asleep over it? Do you see them honest on religious subjects, or do they creep to the house of God hardly willing to let you know it? Do you see already indications that the Spirit of God has been with them? Are you not looking after this? If you see this interest in their countenances--oh! what are you doing? Are you watching unto prayer? Do you feel how great their danger is? Do you feel that their crisis is infinitely more solemn than a fever would be, provided they were Christians? The eternal destinies may hang on that moment, and what are you doing? God is solemn and in earnest, angels are solemn and in earnest, devils are solemn and in earnest, the Holy Spirit is solemn and in earnest--and do you trifle? Who are you that you should trifle? Why the very one that heaven and hell are earnest about! Oh! sinner what are you doing? Professor of religion what are you doing? Who can come with his hand upon his breast and say, "Oh, Lord Jesus thou knowest that I love thee, that in my life I acknowledge thee, and that I do this in remembrance of thee, and will show forth thy death till thou comest?" Are you prepared to come and partake of these elements, and prepared to come in such a sense that those who know you feel that you are such a person that you have a right to come? Or do they say of you, What Mr. ------! why I should never have thought that he was a member! What! does he come to the Communion? Is that woman a professor? Why, I have seen them in such places, and under such circumstances that I should never have thought it!
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A PUBLIC PROFESSION OF CHRIST
DELIVERED ON FRIDAY EVENING, MARCH 28,1851,
BY THE REV. C. G. FINNEY
AT THE TABERNACLE, MOORFIELDS, LONDON.
After the Admission of a number of new Members to the fellowship
of the Church
This lecture was typed in by Bret Dambrauckas.
Reformatted by Katie Stewart
All persons are or ought to be interested in the following points.
II. WHAT ARE THE REASONS FOR MAKING SUCH A PROFESSION?
III. WHAT ARE THE REASONS ASSIGNED BY THOSE WHO NEGLECT TO MAKE SUCH A PROFESSION, AS A JUSTIFICATION OF THEIR CONDUCT?
IV. WHAT IS IMPLIED IN NOT MAKING A PUBLIC PROFESSION OF RELIGION?
All persons are really interested in the discussion of these questions, whether
they feel so or not. Every one has really a deep interest in understanding these
particular points. I shall not take any text to-night, and shall be compelled from
want of time to be as brief as may be; and, therefore, must not enlarge upon these
points. The field suggested by them is a vast one, and each of these heads might
well occupy a full discourse. We have then, to inquire briefly,
I. What is implied in making a public profession of religion?
First: it is a public avowal of hearty confidence in the facts revealed in the gospel, and in Jesus Christ, together with all things that are recorded of him in the Bible; this is implied in making a public profession of religion- it is a public avowal of faith in Jesus, and a sincere and hearty belief of the facts and principles of the gospel.
Again: it is a public surrender to Christ, or submission to him. It is a public avowal of submission and consecration to him in the relations he sustains to men. It is, I say, a public act of submission, and a surrendering of everything up to him as the only Saviour of the world. Again: it is a public avowal of sympathy with him in the great work in which he is engaged, that of bringing about the salvation of men. Again, it implies a public renunciation of self and the spirit of self-seeking. A public profession of self-denial, in this sense, that we no longer live for ourselves; it is a profession therefore of universal devotion to God. But again: it also implies dependence on him in all the relations in which he is exhibited. Further: it implies a confession of sin that we cannot be saved by our own righteousness, not even begin to be saved. It is a public profession of the impossibility of being saved on the ground of law, and therefore a public declaration of the fact that Christ is the only possible way in which a man can be saved. All profession then is designed to be a public avowal of confidence in the truths of the gospel, of submission to Christ, and of dependence on his authority. Again: it is a public renunciation of the spirit of the world!
for a man cannot be in love with the world and with Christ too. It is an oath
of allegiance to Christ. It is a public vouching that he is your God and Saviour.
But once more, it is to profess to be representatives of Christ. By the very act
of making a public profession of religion you profess that you have received the
Spirit of Christ, and therefore, that you intend to exhibit it to the world. By professing
religion you virtually say to the world, we will give you an illustration in our
lives, temper, spirit, and actions, of what Christianity is. Nothing less than this
is implied in making a public profession of the Christian religion. There are many
other things that I might mention, which are implied in a public profession, but
I have not time. We shall therefore proceed to notice-
II. Some of the reasons why persons should make such profession.
First: surely it is no more than simple honesty. The fact is, not to do so is to be guilty of the utmost wrong to God and Christ, to your own soul and to the world at large. The facts of the gospel being admitted - and they cannot with any show of reason be denied- to acknowledge them is but a simple act of honesty. Men are not their own, they are bought with a price, and therefore it is but honest that they should publicly acknowledge this. In short, everyone can see that the facts about Christ, his nature, his relations, his atonement, makes it a simple matter of honesty, that every man to whom the gospel is preached, should at once acknowledge that these things are so, and avow his confidence in them, his sympathy with them, his dependence on them, and his submission to them. It is easy to see that this is a mere act of simple honesty, and that no individual has a right to call himself an honest man who does not openly, publicly acknowledge these facts that are as true as heaven itself is true! But again: a public profession of Christianity is essential to self-respect. No person who understands the Christian religion, and does not publicly profess it, can respect himself -he has not, and cannot have any solid self-respect; he is, and must be ashamed of himself. Indeed, a gentleman of this city told me this fact of himself only to-day; that before he became a professor of religion, the minister, whose preaching he attended, used to deliver an annual sermon, in which he brought out the facts in relation to attendance at the communion table of the members of his congregation; so many had celebrated the ordinance once, so many twice, or so and so many times, and a great many not at all. When these facts were brought out, said the gentlemen, I said, why, our minister takes notice of those persons who absent themselves from the communion table, and I became so ashamed of myself, as frequently to stay away altogether. I felt thoroughly ashamed of myself, that I could go to a Christian church, hear the word of God, mingle with the congregation, and with God's people, and yet after all never publicly avow my attachment to Christ, never avow my belief in the table, and in the gospel. Now from the nature of the case, a moral agent does not, and cannot sincerely respect himself if he knows himself to be dishonest; that he sustains such infinitely important relations to God, and yet refuses to acknowledge them; such a man, I say, cannot respect himself; he has no solid self-respect whatever. He knows that he is dishonest to God, ungrateful to the Saviour, and foolish to himself. I say, therefore, that all persons to whom the gospel is preached ought to understand this, that a public profession of the gospel is essential to true self-respect. And further: it is also essential to true peace of mind, because if a man does not make this public profession of what he knows to be the truth, he does not comply with the fundamental law of his own conscience, and his own being.
But once more: such a profession is, in every point of view, due to Christ. Every man who knows that Christ tasted death for every man, is bound to acknowledge it. Christ will become the advocate of every man who will submit his cause to him, and he is therefore bound to acknowledge his obligations to him. A great many sinners seem to forget that they receive their daily bread from heaven in consideration of what Christ has done for them. Everything they have in this world, every drop of water with which they cool their tongue, is granted because Christ has appeared on their behalf, and given himself to die for the world. God would no more give such blessings to the wicked as he actually does give them, than he would show such favours to the devils, if Christ had not undertaken the mediatorial work. Every man, then, simply regarding the fact that he is out of hell, whether saint or sinner, is bound to acknowledge his obligations to Christ, and that publicly, before all men.
There is a circumstance just come to my mind that will illustrate this. I think I related it before in this place, but no matter, I need not enter into particulars. A man who had lived many years, indeed all his life long, under the sound of the gospel, and who had made a profession of religion, but was not satisfied that he had ever given his heart to Christ, although he knew the truth, had a dream one night, in which it seemed to him that himself and his brother were journeying to a certain place, when a messenger from heaven met them, and said, as you travel along you will come to a place where the roads branch off, the one to the right, and the other to the left, and at that spot you must separate: you will be told which road you must each take and the one that takes the right will go to heaven, while he that takes the left must go to hell! Well, he thought they passed along, and he was in great agitation of mind, until they came to the roads of which the heavenly messenger had told him, when it was announced that he was to take the left hand. Filled with the greatest consternation, he turned about to pursue the path assigned him, and as he was about to part with his brother, he said to him, well, farewell brother, you are going to heaven, you have been a very good man, but I am going to hell! I shall not see you anymore, but I want you to tell the Lord Jesus Christ that I am greatly obliged to him for all the favours I have received at his hands, for all the good he has done me, and for all the good he would have done had I been willing. I have no fault to find, and no excuses make, but as I shall never reach heaven to see the Lord Jesus, I want you to carry this message to him, that I am greatly obliged for all that he has done for me, and even for what he now appoints, I have nothing to accuse him of although I have failed of heaven, for it is my own fault! With this he burst out into loud weeping, and awoke, and then there stood before him, in a manner most clear and bright, his own real relations to Christ. The dream has seemed to prepare his mind and probably the Holy Spirit was concerned in it, for a full reception of the truth; and it so broke his heart all to pieces, that he immediately surrendered himself to Christ. Now, observe, he recognized the fact, although he was going to hell as he supposed, that he had received a great many favours from God on account of Christ, and that, therefore, he owed a deep debt of gratitude and obligation to him, and so told his brother to thank him for those favours which he had received at his hands. Now I suppose many of you have not even done so much as that! Did you ever send such a message to Christ, or tell him yourself that you thanked him for his favours?
But again: it is right and reasonable, on the face of it, that you should publicly acknowledge Christ, and thus show that you regard yourself as being under very great and lasting obligations to him.
Once more: it is due to yourselves that you should make this acknowledgement. Again: it is due to those who are related to you, and over whom you may exert any influence. You cannot live without exerting some influence, and therefore it is your duty to them who are likely to be influenced by you, that you should publicly profess Christ, and espouse his cause, and thus give them the full benefit of your example; their interests demand this, and you are under an obligation to give it. Think, if you are parents what an influence you have upon your children; and almost everything will depend upon the example that you set them.
Once more: you owe it to the church of God.The church have been praying for you, and to them doubtless, you are indebted for the blessings of life. If you read your Bible, you will find that the prayers of God's people being interposed, are continually assigned as the reasons and conditions upon which God spares sinners. It is the church that they owe the means of grace, and a great many of the blessings which they enjoy; they owe it to the church, therefore to make a public profession of religion.
Once more: you owe it to the world at large, because the world is infinitely interested in this matter, that you should not take the wrong side; and have, therefore, a right to claim the whole benefit of all that you might do to save the world if you did your duty. Once more: Christ expressly enjoins this upon all men. The gospel expressly commands that men should profess the name of Christ before the universe -this is one of the plainest commands in the whole Bible. Another reason why persons should publicly commit themselves to Christ is that it is useful to them: it is a foreclosing the heart against sin. Who does not see the importance of this? that the mind should as much as possible be closed against sin and temptation. A public profession is a guard upon the man who makes it. It forecloses the mind against those influences which might lead it away. The standing illustration of the Bible, of this principle, is the institution of marriage. There are a great many points of view in which it is of the greatest importance that parties who wish to live together, should commit themselves to each other by a public act. They would otherwise be much more exposed to temptation; and it is of great importance to the parties themselves. What a safeguard it is for the wife that she can stand forth as a married woman, against being addressed by other men, and the same with the husband. So it is with those who publicly commit themselves to Christ. It is a proclaiming to the world that it is no longer to expect their sympathy: they are now committed to Christ, and the door is closed against the world and sin.
But let me say again: the public profession of any individual presents an inducement for Christ to watch over him, and by his grace to secure his perseverance in a holy life. For example, when an individual thinks himself a Christian, and yet makes no public profession of Christ, what honour does he bring to Christ, and what inducement is there for Christ to watch over him? People see that he lives a consistent life, and as he makes no profession of Christ, all the credit of his conduct is ascribed to nature, and not to grace. The world will give all the credit to the man, and not to Christ, to whom it really belongs. Now what has Christ to do with such an individual as this? Here is an individual deeply indebted to Christ for everything good that he possesses, but he makes no public acknowledgment of it. Thus he does not honour Christ, why then should Christ continue to watch over him? Why should such a man's candle continue lighted, as it is always kept under a bushel? I say then, that when a man makes a public profession of Christ, and thus acknowledges his dependance on him, he presents an inducement for Christ to continue to give him grace. The Psalmist frequently mentions the fact that he had not kept his righteousness within his own heart, and concealed it from the great congregation. And there is something reasonable as well as scriptural in this. When a man fully commits himself to Christ he engages and ensures the protection of an Almighty arm; he throws himself upon the grace of Christ. Look at Peter in the ship. When Christ was walking on the water, he said, If it be thou bid me come to thee on the water; and as soon as the Lord said Come, he did not hesitate, but just cast himself upon the protection of Christ. Did he let Peter sink? O no, Christ did not let him sink when he had fully committed himself. So when an individual, from right motives, publishes his attachment to Christ, he may depend upon being preserved: Christ will never forsake him. Let him do this with all humility, and what an argument would it put into his mouth. O Lord Jesus, did I not commit myself to serve thee, and illustrate thy religion before the world depending on thee for grace, and now shall the light that is in me become darkness, shall thy grace be withheld, so that I shall crucify thee afresh, and put thee to an openshame? No, indeed, this shall never be in such a case. Would not that be an argument likely to prevail with Christ? Yes; and ought to have power with him if made in good faith.
Once more: another reason why we should make a public profession of religion is, that we ought to be in the channel in which his covenant blessings flow to his people. If we would have these blessings we must comply with God's order. Again: making a public profession of religion gives those who do it an especial interest in the sympathies and cares of the whole church militant. It is not true that people who belong to different denominations make up so many different churches. The fact is, they are all branches of the church of God if they are real Christians: they may differ in certain forms, and minor things, but they are in heart essentially one. Every genuine disciple of Christ then, who avows his attachment, sustains an intimate relation to the entire church militant, and the church triumphant too, for they are both one. The head of the church is in heaven, and there also are the advanced members; while those who yet remain below entirely sympathize with those who are made perfect in heaven. Every visible member of Christ, then, brings himself by the public profession,under the watchful cares, the sympathy and prayers of the entire church of God. And is this a small thing? Understand, I am not speaking of mere hangers on to the church, and there has always been plenty of these in every age, but I speak of the true church in whatever denomination it is found.
Once more: another reason for making a public profession is, that when individuals
come out and are entirely honest with themselves and with God, they then can respect
themselves, for they have peace with God; they then have fellowship with the Father
and with the Son, and they are not the individuals to shrink away from public responsibility.
But I cannot dwell any longer on this part of the subject. We have now to consider
in a few words -
III. Some of the reasons that are assigned, publicly or secretly, for the neglect of this duty.
One says, I am not a Christian. Well, and is that a good excuse for not doing your duty? It is only to assign one sin as an excuse for another. Why are you not a Christian? Suppose a man should attempt to justify himself for having committed some horrible crime by pleading the fact that he was very wicked and loved sin. That, certainly, would not be regarded as a good excuse! No! no! It will not do to plead that you are not a Christian, expecting that such a plea will excuse you, for it only aggravates your guilt.
Another says, I do not make a profession because I fear I should disgrace Christ and his cause. Indeed! Is that a good reason? Is it a true reason? I fear there must be some mistake in that. Do you so dread to dishonour Christ's name and cause, that you abstain on that account from making a public profession, lest by it you should dishonour him? Do you say that? Yes? Well, but is it no dishonour for you to deny him? Do you love him so much and fear to dishonour him and his cause, that you abstain from making a profession lest you should dishonour him? Indeed! How is it then that you are not afraid to sin by denying Christ, which you do by refusing to acknowledge him?
Ah, says another, I am afraid of such a responsibility. Indeed! And is there no responsibility in the other direction? You fear the responsibility of professing Christ! Well, do you not fear the heavier responsibility of denying him? Is there no responsibility in taking part with his enemies, and refusing to obey his commands? Yes, indeed, there is a solemn, awful responsibility.
Another says, It is such a solemn thing. Yes, indeed, it is: but is it not also a solemn thing not to make a public profession? It is a solemn thing, you say, if what I have said is actually implied in making a profession. Is it not a solemn thing? Yes, it is; but it is still more solemn to refuse to do it when Christ requires it, and reason, conscience, and the entire universe ask it at your hands.
Another reason assigned ofttimes is, I can as well be saved without it. What does this mean? As well be saved without it! Is it then a mere question of loss and gain with you? Is the great end in view simply to be saved, no matter how? Do you care nothing about sympathy with Christ? nothing about obeying his commands! so that you gain salvation at last; is that all you care about? But what can you mean by that, Can be as well saved without it. Can you be saved by disobeying Christ as well as by obeying him? You refused to acknowledge him, and yet expect to be saved by him? What does Christ himself say to you He that is ashamed of me before men, of him will I be ashamed before my Father and the holy angels. Now I suppose it is true that where individuals have no opportunity to avow and acknowledge Christ before men they may be saved without; but if men neglect to perform their duty where opportunities offer to comply with it, they will not be held excused. To say that persons can be saved without publicly acknowledging Christ when they have every opportunity to do it, is equivalent to saying that they can just as well be saved in sin as by breaking off from it. What is sin but a neglect of duty. Can a man live and die in sin and yet be a Christian? O, but say some, this is only one sin. Well, suppose it is, if you live in it deliberately you live in sin, for if you indulge in any form of iniquity you do not renounce one sin from your heart. Now, can you recognize God's authority in anything if you do not in everything? What does the Bible say? If a man offend in one point he is guilty of all. There is a great mistake I believe on this subject. A great many people suppose that they can neglect this duty, while they acknowledge it to be so, and yet get to heaven as well as if they complied with it. You who think so are entirely mistaken, for you live in known sin if you neglect acknowledged duty; and how can you be saved if you live in sin? It is impossible!
Once more: a public profession of religion is the way to have the evidence of acceptance with God. How can you expect to realize the promises without a public committal of yourself to Christ? It is faith that inherits the promises and not unbelief. The fact is that many persons are waiting for evidences that they are accepted of God, while they are unwilling to obey him. Further: a great many persons who have had a clear hope in Christ have put off making a public profession until they have grieved the spirit and brought darkness over their own mind. The path was once clear, but they neglected it, and now, mark! they will in all probability die in that darkness, or be obliged to make a public profession of religion before God will restore to them the light which they seek. I have known a great many cases of persons waiting for light, but have not obtained it till they have made up their minds to obey God; and when they have done this then light has come.
But once more: another reason assigned is, I do not like publicly to commit myself. Now that excuse, right on the face of it, is an evidence that your heart is not right; for if your heart was right you would not hesitate for an instant to commit yourself before the world. Nay! You would be anxious, as publicly as possible to attach yourself to Christ. Another reason, which is sometimes assigned by individuals is, that it will subject them to be scrutinized. People will watch me to see how I live. Ah! and do you shrink away from that? If I do not make a public profession, so much will not be expected of me. Indeed! And is that a good reason why you should not make a public profession? What ought to be expected of you? But another says, It will subject me to persecution. Indeed! And is that a good reason for not making a public profession? Did Christ shrink back from coming to rescue you because it would subject him to persecution? Was he never persecuted for you, and cannot you afford to bear any persecution for him? Surely it is enough that the servant be as his Lord, and the disciple as his Master! If Christ had held back from your salvation on account of persecution, where would you have been? But he did not withhold his cheek from the smiters,and from those that plucked off the hair; he was maligned, slandered, and murdered for your sake.How then does it become you to talk in that way?
Again: some people, I am ashamed to say, do not make a public profession of religion, because if they did they would be expected to support the institutions of the gospel. And is that a good reason why you should not espouse the cause of Christ, because that by doing so you would be expected to do your part in this great work? O shame, that anybody ever should have such a thought! Whose are you? and to whom belong all your possessions? Cannot you afford to be a professor of religion? Afford it! ! And could Christ afford to die for you? Suppose he had said, when he found what your salvation would cost him, I cannot afford it! Where would you and I have been tonight if Christ had said he could not afford to save us?
Another says, It will subject me to greater restraint than I like. I shall not be able to go to such and such places. I sometimes like to visit the theatre, but that is no place for professors of religion. Now I can occasionally gratify myself in this way; but if I made such a public profession, such a course would injure the cause of Christ. Then you mean to indulge yourself, and you do not like the restraints that Christ would impose upon you. Well, and do you expect to secure heaven and indulge in your sinful gratifications too? You want gratifications that are inconsistent with the Christian character, and yet you hope to be saved. Friends! do not deceive yourselves, I beg of you!
Once more: I fear I shall be sorry if I do. What will make you sorry? Do you think that if you make a public profession, and then live as you ought to live, that you will be sorry? Some people I fear mean by this excuse to say, I shall wish to be out of the church of God because I shall not like to live such a life as will be demanded of me. Now if you feel thus, it is a plain proof that you have not committed your soul to Christ.
But another says, I do not know what church to join, there are so many denominations and churches. Cannot you make up your mind? Consult Christ, then, and see if you cannot get some light. Is there nowhere that you can have Christian sympathy and fellowship? O yes, you can find a place! There are those who have prayed for you, and earnestly besought the Lord to distill upon you the dews of his heavenly grace, and if you seek, you will find them.
Once more: It is a dreadful thing to make a false profession, say some. So it
is; but is it not a dreadful thing to make no profession at all? Oh, but I can live
a Christian life without it! Well, suppose you did! I have already intimated that
this would be really to deny Christ, and refuse him his proper due. Man gets the
praise himself for his consistent walk, although it is the effect of the water of
grace which Christ has distilled upon his heart. This is giving all to nature, and
robbing Christ. When the communion table is spread, he keeps away; and what does
this say to the world? Why, virtually this, See how I keep myself; you see I have
no need of Christ: you see how good I am, but I owe nothing to the grace of Christ!
But it is false! it is false! You cannot be a Christian and make no profession of
Christ! But I am to notice very briefly
IV. What is implied in NOT making a public profession of religion.
First, it is a public denial and rejection of Christ; and it is also a denial of him of the most empathic kind it is a denial of the LIFE: it is a denial of dependence on him or obligation to him, and a most emphatic denial, not in words but in DEEDS! Again: it is a profession that you have no part nor lot in religion. Again: it is a denial of the truth in relation to Christ. Again: it is a public acknowledgment of unbelief, or infidelity, which is unbelief. Once more: it is a public proclamation that in your view, the Christian religion is a delusion, and Christ is an imposter! Perhaps you do not say this nor really intend it: perhaps you never thought that this was implied in not making a public profession, but it is true nevertheless. Again: not to make a profession of Christ is a public avowal of sympathy on the other side. Now I know that many persons are not aware of the things that are involved in standing aloof from a profession of Christ, and it is for this reason that I state these things, that they who hear me may no longer be in ignorance.
Once more: it is a public profession of impenitence as well as unbelief. Observe, everybody makes some public profession. You are not to suppose that because you do not make a public profession in favour of religion that therefore you make no profession about it, for you do. Your refusing to profess Christ is a public declaration against him. His friends are on one side, and his enemies on the other, and you must belong to one party or the other: and if you are not committed to him you voluntarily subject yourselves to the doom of the enemies of Christ.
I must close with just one or two remarks. Professors of religion should watch over each other with paternal love; watch over them for good and not for evil. I am sorry to say that I have sometimes witnessed a spirit the very opposite of this. I have seen old professors watching for the halting of younger Christians. Oh! I trust it will not be so in this church! but that you will set yourselves to be brothers and sisters indeed; and that the fathers will sympathize with the youth!
Once more: young professors should always remember that they voluntarily place themselves in such a position as to draw the eyes of the world upon them, and of the church. They are the spectacle of angels and of men. Let them remember this!
But thirdly: let them not be deterred from witnessing for Christ on account of the great responsibility which it involves. Christ has said, "My grace is sufficient for thee." therefore do not hesitate to put yourselves in the position that Christ requires. He will give you strength equal to your day.
Once more: identify yourselves with every Christian effort. Let all young Christians, who have now become assembled in the fellowship of the church, and others who will do so, doubtless, on the next admission, identify themselves fully with the people of God. Always manifest your sympathy with every good work, and everything which belongs to God's cause. You have publicly espoused it, let it possess your heart. Let all your actions witness that your profession is not an empty profession!
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THE WHOLE COUNSEL OF GOD
A Farewell Sermon
PREACHED ON WEDNESDAY EVENING, APRIL 2, 1851,
BY THE REV. C.G. FINNEY,
AT THE TABERNACLE, MOORFIELDS, LONDON.
This lecture was typed in by Bret Dambrauckas.
Reformatted by Katie Stewart
"Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men. For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God." --Acts xx. 26, 27.
I preach from this text, as some of you are aware, at Dr. Campbell's particular request. Much as I have laboured as an Evangelist, and the many times I have been called to part with those amongst whom I have laboured, I have never allowed myself to preach from this text; and when the Doctor asked me to do so this evening, I told him that I did not feel as if I could; there are so many affecting things in it about the Apostle; and I am further loth to preach upon it, lest some should infer that I am in some sense comparing myself with the Apostle, than which nothing is further from my design or desire. In speaking from these words I shall notice- I. WHAT IS INTENDED BY THE ASSERTION THAT THE APOSTLE WAS PURE FROM THE BLOOD OF ALL MEN
This will be best explained by a reference to what is said on the same subject and almost in the same words by the prophet Ezekiel, in the third chapter of his prophecy" Son of man, I have made thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me. When I say unto the wicked, Thou shalt surely die; and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his wicked way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity; but his blood will I require at thine hand. Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity; but thou hast delivered thy soul. Again, when a righteous man doth turn from his righteousness and commit iniquity, and I lay a stumbling block before him, he shall die: because thou hast not given him warning, he shall die in his sin, and his righteousness which he hath done shall not be remembered: but his blood will I require at thine hand. Nevertheless if thou warn the righteous man, that the righteous sin not,and he doth not sin, he shall surely live, because he is warned; (or because he takes warning,) also thou hast delivered thy soul." Here you see involved the same principle as that of which the Apostle speaks, and it explains what the Apostle meant. You know also that in scripture the blood is said to be the life. Of course this language is figurative: the life of the soul is called its blood; and for the reason that I have just mentioned. To be clear from the blood of men, then, is to be clear of the charge of unfaithfulness to their souls. To be clear from the blood of all men in the sense in which the apostle affirms himself to be so, means that he was not to blame if they should lose their souls: he had discharged his duty to them: if their souls were lost they were answerable for it, not himself. In further remarking upon this passage, I design to notice the three following thoughts-
II. THAT IT CANNPOT BE LOST WITHOUT INFINITE GUILT SOMEWHERE; BECAUSE INFINITE
RESPONSIBILITY MUST BE INCURRED SOMEWHERE.
III. POINT OUT THE CONDITIONS UPON WHICH ALL WHO HAVE THIS RESPONSIBILITY MAY BE CLEAR OF THE BLOOD OF THE SOUL.
I. That the soul is of infinite value.
This is a theme so vast that when an individual gives up his mind to consider and dwell upon it he is completely confounded. It is like eternity: the mind seems to topple in the attempt to grasp it, and become convulsed and agonized in the effort to conceive it. In the Bible the soul is always represented as of great value; and you all know that everything which is really valuable must ever belong to mind; for nothing can be of value except as a means of promoting the welfare and well-being of mind: nothing can be valuable in itself but that which constitutes the well-being of mind. Take all the mind out of the universe, and what is there left of any real value: Joy and sorrow, pain and pleasure, all belong to the mind. Especially is this true of all intelligent mind the mind of moral agents; and it is, of course, the souls of moral agents of which I now speak. Of mere brute beasts we have the means of knowing but little; and therefore we cannot say much about them. When we speak of the souls of men, we refer to some things that are believed to be immortal.
Now let me say, the first thought in reference to the value of the soul is this, its eternity of existence it must live forever! When souls have once began to be, they will never cease to be: they will grow older and older, and live onward and onward and onward as long as God shall live! Now think of that! I must not extend my remarks nor longer dwell upon it. But another consideration is, that from the very nature of mind it must be either happy or miserable; and further, that as the mind is so enduring, its enjoyments or sufferings will be continually and everlastingly upon the increase. This must be so as the result of a natural and necessary law. The means of greater happiness or misery will increase. The mind will go on progressing in knowledge, and consequently the power of the mind and its capacity for enjoyment or misery will be forever enlarging. But I must not extend my remarks upon this thought. I have dwelt considerably upon this on a former occasion, when I preached on "the Infinite Value of the Soul," and therefore there is the less need for enlarging upon it now.
I proceed to say in the next place, by way of elaborating a little the thought just now presented, that the soul when it once begins to exist will go on enjoying or suffering forever and ever, and that its capacity for enjoyment or suffering also increases with its duration; and its capacity at any time in a future state will be full of either the one set of feelings or the other. And further, it is easy to see that the period must arrive when each individual shall be either enjoying or suffering more than would fill the conceptions of all finite creatures. If you could unite in one mind all the intellect of the universe at this moment excepting only that of God himself it would not be capable of either the joy or the suffering that may be predicated of any single mind at some period in the future. Indeed such a mind would fall infinitely short of realizing that of which every soul at some point of eternity will be capable. Every individual in this house now, the youngest child or the weakest mind, will have to live forever, after the elements shall have been melted by the fire, and the universe have rolled together as a scroll and passed away with a great noise; and the time, therefore, must come when each of you, whatever your grasp of mind now will be able to look back upon the lengthened ages which you shall have lived, the vast number of circles which shall have rolled away, and remember all your sorrows and your joys, and be able to say, Ah! I have enjoyed, or suffered, as the case may be, in my personal experience more than all the creatures of God has ever suffered or enjoyed before I was born, or before I came to this place. And when he has said that, he will be infinitely short of the truth.The period will arrive when the youngest child in this congregation will be able to say, I am older now than was any creature of God when I was born; aye! than were the aggregate age of all the intelligences of God's universe when I first began to be, and infinitely more experienced now than they all were then. Yes, and I have received more favours, mercy, and grace from God now, than they all had received when I first started into existence. And they all have been progressing and receiving additional favours just as I have. They are as far ahead of me now as they were then, for God has not confined his favours to me. The period will arrive when the last admitted inhabitant of heaven will be able to say, I know more of God now than they all knew when I came here; I am older now than they all were then. My single cup of knowledge will not hold more than at that time all theirs combined that indeed which runs over the side of mine would have filled theirs. But what have you said even when you have said this? Behind there lies an eternity still; you may roll on the waves of the ocean in that direction forever, for there is neither shore nor bound; neither height, nor depth, nor bottom; infinity is on every side!
How many hundreds of years has Paul been in heaven, and with him associated his spiritual children, those who were converted under his ministry! At some period in eternity the youngest child now alive, or ever will live, who gets to heaven, will be able to say, I now know a thousand times more about God and heaven than Paul did when he was upon earth, or than all the church of God combined knew at that time. (But after all, this is only a very faint conception of eternity and the progress of the mind in a future state.) Draw out the thought to any possible or conceivable extent: let any computation be made: let your mind stretch itself to its utmost tension, and what then? Why you have only just set your foot on the threshold of eternity: you are no nearer to the end than when you made the first step. The joy of heaven is always and absolutely perfect: the soul will be continually and forever rising and rising nearer to God, but there will never be any approaching to a close in anything there, seeing that everything is absolutely infinite!Now turn it over and look at the other side. Think if an individual who goes on sinning, and sinning, just as if there was no such place as hell! There was a first time when you consented to sin, and there was a first pang of conscience in your little mind, and a tear gathered in your little eye. Could anybody have looked into your little heart, and beheld that twinge of your little mind,and seen that heavy sigh, could it have been supposed that you would ever sin again? Ah! But you have repeated it again and again, and on you have gone until now! Just think then for a moment of that individual going into eternity! Then all restraint is taken away. The pleasures of sin too are all cut off; and all good influences have died away forever. He has received all his good gifts and good things. He abused God's mercy, rejected God's gospel, grieved God's Spirit, done despite to the Spirit of grace, and went on in sin; and now, therefore, he is sinning with increasing vigour rushing on in sin! Ah! think of the many sorrows, the many agonizings, the many hours of remorse that the sinner has to endure even here; but then, in a future world, when conscience will do its duty perfectly, when there is no diverting the attention from his true condition; when he cannot shut his eyes to the truth; what will be his agony and remorse then? When he feels that his soul is lost, and lost forever? He cannot repent of his sins then. No! but he goes on sinning still.Sinner, if you be numbered with the lost, the period in that awful eternity will arrive when you will have sinned more than all the devils in hell have sinned up to the present hour! All the devils in that world have not yet created such a source of misery, as at some period you will have done if you are lost! Nay! All the devils, and all the wicked men who have left our world to be their companions in woe, have not in the aggregate committed as many sins as you will be able to claim as your own. The period must arrive when to attempt to number your sins would be an inexpressible source of the deepest agony. Who can count them? Who can compute them? What but an infinite mind could look at them without being so overcome as to wail out in the agonies of despair? if the mind was not infinitely holy.
There is no real believing in immortality, taking it as a truth into the mind,
and contemplating it from any point of view, without an individual feeling as if
his nerves were on fire with such convictions as these. But I must not enlarge upon
this, or I should keep you here all night. I proceed in the next place to show
II. That no soul of such infinite value can be lost without somebody incurring an infinite amount of responsibility and guilt.
God is in a three fold sense the owner of every one of these souls. First, he created them all. Secondly, he preserved them all, and thirdly, he redeemed them all, by the precious blood of Christ. They cost him an infinite price, and he will not see them lost without making inquisition for blood. By a word he gave existence to the material universe. He can speak, and by the energy of his own word, world rises upon world, and system upon system, and by the same means he can people them all; but thus he could not redeem sinners. They, having sinned, were spiritually dead, and incurred the penalty of the Divine law; and to save them from the destruction thus impending was a different work to that of creation, and could not be performed by the going forth of his fiat. To redeem these souls was a work that cost him an infinite price. To ordain these laws by which they came into existence, was comparatively a trifling performance although that required the power of a God but to redeem you, sinner, to purchase you back, to relieve you from the penalty of the Divine law; to make an atonement that God might be just and yet save you cost an infinite price! God's beloved and only Son! for more than thirty years endured intense suffering, labour, persecution, and misrepresentation for you, and finally, your redemption cost him his life. Ah! under the charge of blasphemy the Son of God must die for you and for me! God, for man gave his son, his only son, his well beloved Son, in whom he was well pleased. the Son of God must die! What a sacrifice!It was infinite! Think brethren, of the immense self-denial to which heaven was subjected! Think of that work which, shall I say, the family of the Divine Trinity; what shall I say? the glory of the Godhead, Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, combined to carry on with the greatest self-denial; and all this to save the soul! What a testimony is this to its value! We learn here God's opinion of the value of the soul. Think what self-denial on the part of the Father, that he could consent to fit off his only and well beloved Son as a missionary to this world. What must the inhabitants of heaven have thought of it? What a scene must there have been in heaven when the Son of the Eternal Father was fitted off as a missionary to save this dying world!
We talk about missionaries to the heathen, and the self-denial which they have to practice, and we get up meetings when they are going to sail for distant climes, that we may manifest our sympathy and mingle our tears with theirs, sing hymns to God, and pray together and give them our blessings and our prayers; and all this is highly proper; but what must have been the state of things when it was announced in heaven that the Son of God was going as a missionary to this world to save us rebels by his blood! There must have been tears of grief and also of inexpressible joy at what was going forward, sympathy for the inhabitants of this world, astonishment at the love of God, and wonder at the undertaking of the Son of God. The whole scheme, when it was first published in heaven, must have filled every part of that world with unutterable joy and sympathy. O, how many millions of hearts were united in sympathy with this wonderful mission which the Son of God had undertaken.
Now mark! God has committed to each of you one of these immortal souls; and made provision for its eternal life, although it was doomed to die, and he has enjoined it upon each one to take care of his soul. He asks you, "what will you give in exchange for your soul?" "What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?" In every way he expresses his own idea of the infinite value of the soul. He has charged every man to look to make it his first business to secure it from eternal death. "Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness;" and those who do this he promises shall lose nothing by it" And all other things shall be added unto you;" everything else that you need shall be thrown in, if you will only be careful not to lose your soul! "Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness." This is the charge that is given to every man! This is the solemn charge that is given to every woman! I commit to you an immortal soul; take care you do not lose it! I prize it infinitely. I have given my Son to die for it. I love it with an everlasting love!But I cannot save it without your concurrence; I must have your consent; I must have your heart;I must have your sympathy. Take care that you do not lose it; but it is impossible, from the nature of the case, to save it without your consent. Take care that you set about its salvation! Let this be your first, your great, your perpetual concern the saving of your soul. O take care of this soul!
But again: it is not only an infinite gift which an individual has received in charge in respect of his own soul; but all those receiving the gift have a charge given with respect to the souls around them. Ministers, especially, have received this charge. "Son of man," says God, to every one of them, mark what I say, "I have set thee a watchman to the house of Israel; hear the word at my mouth, and give them warning from me. When I say unto the wicked man thou shalt surely die, and thou givest him not warning, nor speakest to warn the wicked from his way, to save his life; the same wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood will I require at thine hand. Yet if thou warn the wicked, and he turn not from his wickedness, nor from his wicked way, he shall die in his iniquity, but thou hast delivered thy soul."
Again: he has given a solemn charge to the church at large on this subject, and of course to each individual member of the church, not only to regard his own soul, but to watch, take care, remember, pray for, warn, and exhort, and labour for the souls of those around him. Christian parents, teachers, brothers, sisters, and all classes of Christians are to take care of their own souls, and also of the souls of those around them. "What I say unto one I say unto all, Watch."
Again: God has also laid a charge upon all men to love their neighbours as themselves, to care for the souls of their neighbours as they would for their own. Every wicked man is bound to love God, to love the soul of his neighbour, and to love his own soul; and not to neglect his own soul nor the souls of those under his influence. But I must pass in the next place to notice in a few words
III. The conditions upon which all who have this responsibility may be clear of the blood of the soul.
And let me say, it is perfectly plain that we cannot be clear of the blood of souls unless we have done what we wisely and properly could to prevent their being lost. Of course, if we live in sin ourselves, we are guilty of our own blood; and if we do not do our duty by others we are not clear of their blood. It may be useful to advert, for a moment, to the different classes of duty, which arise out of, and attaches to the various relations in which men stand. Ministers, for instance, are public teachers, and as such they must be "instant in season and out of season;" they must preach the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth; they must lay themselves on the altar and not shun to declare the whole counsel of God. They must not keep back anything that is profitable to their hearers; they must select such truths as they think most needful to be known, and faithfully declare them, and seek zealously to apply them to the hearts and consciences of those to whom they minister; and further, they must live in such a manner as to show that in their own hearts they believe what they preach. They must not think that they will be clear from the blood of souls, merely because they publish the truth with their lips; they must preach also in their temper and life; they must be true and serious teachers in everything. Church officers, deacons, and others, also ought to consider their responsibility: let them remember that it is great; and that they can be clear from the blood of souls only by living in such a manner as to be what they ought to be in every relation which they sustain.
Next, take parents; see what great responsibilities they have. Only think. They are exerting a greater influence over their children than all the world beside, and as a natural result, they will do more for or against the souls of their children than all other beings in the world. They begin the work of life or death, so far as influence is concerned; they also carry it on and ripen it; and if their children are lost, because they have neglected to do their duty, their hands are red to the elbows with their children's blood! Think of that! See that mother's hand. What! has she been murdering her children? What is she about? She lives not, prays not, labours not for the salvation of her children! O, mother! What are you about?
There is not time, of course, to descend into all the relations of life, and show how responsibility attaches itself to them all; but let what I have said be suggestive. You may apply it to Sabbath school teachers, missionaries, brothers and sisters, young converts, and older Christians for each one sustains peculiar responsibilities; and no one can be guiltless of the blood of souls who does not do his duty, whatever it may be, who does not labour faithfully, as God shall give him an opportunity, and in the spirit and with the power which God offers to clothe him with, for the salvation of the souls of men.
Once more: of course it is expected of ministers that they shall warn, exhort, and rebuke with all long-suffering and doctrine.
But having dwelt this much upon the three leading thoughts, I must proceed to make some remarks.
First, to have a clear conscience in respect of this great matter is of inestimable value. Now, for example, what an infinite consolation it must be to God the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, to know that nothing which could have been wisely and benevolently done for the salvation of men was omitted that everything which could be done for this great end by an infinite and enlightened benevolence was done, nothing omitted; so that when God sees the sufferings of the wicked of the whole universe, when he looks at them and pours his eye over them, and listens to their terrible wailings, just think of the consolation he will have in being able to say, I am clear of their blood! I am clear! I call the universe to record that I am clear!
Why, I suppose this to be one of the great objects of the general judgment, that God, if I may use such an expression may clear up his character, and vindicate his conduct in the presence of the entire universe; and bring all created intelligence to pronounce sentence of deserved damnation upon the wicked. At the present, we cannot pronounce upon God's conduct any further than the law of our own intelligent consciousness affirms that he must be right, as so far as he has condescended to explain himself to us; but mark! the time is coming when he will reveal everything to us; every transaction of the divine government shall be disclosed; at a period when suns and moons have ceased to rise and set; and days and years, as we number them, have ceased to cycle away; when men shall have ceased to grow, and their eyes are not dim with age, for they have ceased to die, and are immortal; then the time shall come to consider the whole matter. And God possesses the means, for this infinite mind has recorded all the facts; and thus he will bring into perfect remembrance the transactions of the entire universe from first to last. Then doubtless, he will explain the reasons for his own conduct, and show the design he had in the creation, and in all the providential arrangements of his government; then every mouth shall be stopped, not one will be able to say a single word more of the impropriety of anything that God has done, and the whole world will become guilty before God: everything that he has done will receive the unanimous consent of the entire universe: they will declare that he is infinitely far from the least fault in all this matter, when he has placed everything in such a light, that there can be no doubt of his perfect wisdom and benevolence. Then he will know that they know, as he now knows, and will eternally know, that he has done all that infinite love, and power, and wisdom could do to save those immortal souls that he regarded as of such infinite value.
Again: suppose God's conscience condemns him, that he knows he has done that which his own infinite mind must pronounce wrong and unbecoming in himself to do, who does not know that such a thought would fill his infinite mind with sorrow and remorse all through eternity, rolling onward and onward and onward, through a life of accumulating misery. Suppose, we say, that he could accuse himself of any error, or wrong, or oversight, or anything that he should have attended to, or could have done wisely, but did not do, for the salvation of souls why, it would fill his own mind with a pang that would really make it an infinite hell!
But there will be no such thing. Right over against this the eternal consciousness of being clear will fill his infinite mind with satisfaction. When the universe look upon the ten thousand millions of murdered souls yea, more than can ever by computed that shall stand revealed at the day of judgment, the question will be asked, Who has committed these murders? God says, I AM CLEAR! The Father says, I AM CLEAR! The Holy Ghost says, I AM CLEAR! Now then, inquisition must be made for blood. Who has been guilty of this deed? What deeds of death are here? What dreadful things have been done? Who are the guilty parties?
Once more: Paul said to those to whom he had preached, that they knew very well, from their own observation, that he was clear of their blood; and he called upon them again to make a record of the fact that he might take it with him and use it at the solemn judgment, and confront them with it before the throne of God; and thus prove by their own testimony that he was clear from the blood of them all. What consolation this is for a faithful minister. Again: it must be a dreadful thing on the other hand for an unfaithful minister to meet his people in the day of judgment! Indeed it is a dreadful thing for such a minister to leave a people amongst whom he has been labouring. Suppose he leaves them with conscious misgivings, or direct accusations, you have been an unfaithful minister, you have been seeking your own popularity for his conscience may perhaps accuse him of that you have laboured for filthy lucre, you have been indolent, you have truckled to the most false and pernicious sentiments; in short, you have not rightly represented God and his gospel, and have concealed the truth lest it should give offence to men. Suppose conscience speaks thus. You have sought to create a reputation for yourself; but you have not laboured for the conversion of souls! Ah! you will soon have to die, and they also will depart into eternity to whom you have ministered. How do you expect to meet these souls in the solemn judgment? You will have to meet them face to face. What a meeting that will be. Yes, we shall meet again; we shall meet at the bar of God, and see him face to face. What will be the object of our meeting at that awful tribunal? Why, for God to tell the universe that he has done everything that he wisely could for the salvation of your souls; and you to give an account of the manner in which you have received or rejected his offers of mercy!Now we are all going on, and will shortly appear before the great white throne, on which shall sit the Judge in terrible majesty, with the heavens and the earth all fleeing from his presence; then the books shall be opened; yea, and all the dead shall be judged out of those books; and the sea shall give up its dead. Never was I at sea but these words have come with solemn emphasis to my mind, and I expect that in a few days, when I am on the mighty waters, they will recur to me again. "The sea shall give up the dead that is in it, and death and hell shall give up the dead that is in them." Ah! that will be a solemn time for ministers, for hearers, for parents, for children, for old and young: yes, it will be a solemn time for all, for saints and sinners both. Ah! we must each give an account of himself to God. What a responsibility is this.
I was a pastor for eighteen years, and I have laboured a great deal as an Evangelist; hundreds, nay thousands, therefore, who have sat under my ministry have gone before me into the eternal world; I shall follow them, and a great mass of others will follow me; and by and by we shall all be congregated. And what then? I know that it is one thing to talk, and another thing to walk right up with open face before God, and take his judgment in the matter. All secrets will then be laid open, the deepest intentions of the mind will be brought out and exhibited; every motive of my heart, and every sermon that I have preached, will be closely scanned and scrutinized. The truth upon every point will be brought up, and the whole universe will hear it. Ah, that will be a solemn time for me, for mark! scores of thousands in America and in Great Britain, will either have to face me down or I them. Think of that! I am not going to say all that Paul said.
But once more: it must be an awful thing for congregations to meet their ministers, those who have had pastors, or heard only occasional preaching. Brethren, think of it. I have often thought that of all the relations existing in this world, that of pastor and people is the most solemn; for God will surely make inquisition for blood: he must require this at someone's hand; and it will be a solemn time for the pastor if he is to blame. No soul will be lost without the inquiry being made, Who has done this deed? Who has shed this blood? Who has filled the world of hell with mourning, lamentation, and woe? The cry will resound, loud and withering, WHO HAS DONE IT? As I have said, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost will say, we have not done it. The faithful in all ages will say, we have not done it. Who then has been guilty of this dreadful and accursed deed? I will tell you who. First, the sinner has done it himself; secondly, unfaithful ministers have done it; unfaithful deacons, elders, and leading members in the church have done it; unfaithful parents have done it; unfaithful children have done it; unfaithful brothers and sisters have done it; unfaithful Sabbath school teachers have done it; in short, all unfaithful men have done it; they are red with the blood of souls. You may know that they have been guilty of murder for the blood of their victims is upon their garments. Cast your eyes upon them and behold they are red from head to foot with the blood of men! All can see that they have done it; every man is covered with his neighbour's blood. See that man! his hands are imbued in the blood of his own soul, the souls of his children, or of his flock, and all those to whom he has been unfaithful. Oh, brethren, I say again, just think of it! See that murderer standing over his victim, his weapons reeking in blood; he is caught in the very act of murder; he cannot deny it, for blood is upon him.
But see the unfaithful minister in the day of judgment, he comes on to his trial, but he cannot look up. Those who sat under his ministry have caught sight of him, and they say to each other that is our minister; you remember his pretty tastes, his dazzling oratory, his graceful amblings, and his captivating blandishments; you remember about his pretty sermons, and you recollect how afraid he was to say hell, or let us know there was such a place; you recollect how he trimmed and truckled, how opposed to this thing and that thing, because it was not genteel, and was against all reform or progress in religion do you remember all that: well that was our minister; see him looking down: he is speaking, what does he say? What does he say? See the eye of the judge looking through and through that unfaithful minister, that man who pretended to preach the gospel, and dealt deceitfully with souls. How much guilt there is upon him! What an awful thing that must be! How dreadful his position.
But once more: I have sometimes in my own experience had great searchings of heart on this matter, lest I should have preached myself instead of the gospel. Thousands of times when I have pressed myself close up, I have had fear lest the blood of souls was upon me. When I have heard that this man and that man was gone, who had sat under my ministry, I have often asked myself, Have I done my duty by that man? was I faithful? or was I indolent and unfaithful? Did I shun to declare the whole counsel of God? I have often thought of this also and I say it, not boastfully as you know, that I could say so far as I know myself I had never kept back what I thought the people wanted most to know; that I never kept back what I believed the people most needed to be told, because I was either afraid of them on the one hand or any other motive on the other. I never had courage to keep back the truth. When people have said sometimes, how dare you preach this thing and the other, I have told them that I had not courage to disobey God, and rush to the solemn judgment with the blood of souls on my hands. Indeed I have no such courage! Whom should I fear, God or man. How much faith must a man have if he cannot walk right up and tell the sinner the truth of God to his face. And if he cannot do this, how can he walk right up the face of God and then give an account of himself to the great searcher of hearts! He who is more afraid of men, than of God, must be an infidel.
Once more: I have already intimated, that in the judgment, sinners will find themselves without excuse; and as in the case of Ezekiel, their blood will be upon their own head; but that is not all: it is also true that there may be moral guilt in not doing our duty, in not warning, praying, and labouring for our neighbours as we ought. I have also spoken of faithless ministers meeting their people at the day of judgment, and the disposition they will have to curse him. I have sometimes wondered if their strong feelings of hate will find vent; whether there will be an audible expression of them. For example, whether at the judgment the multitude whom the unfaithful minister has misled will be permitted to give audible vent to the natural feelings of indignation that burn within their breasts; whether they will be allowed to curse him. They will be wicked enough and have reason enough, but will they be allowed to curse him. They have more reason to curse him, perhaps, than all the world beside. More reason to say, O thou most accursed and wicked man, did you not trifle with my soul; did I not look up to you as my religious teacher; did I not yield myself up to your guidance; and did you not deceive me with lies, and by keeping from me the truth, by which I might have been saved and all here been well? Such feeling will exist; but will the judge permit them to find audible expression? If so, is it too much to suppose that they will hiss, and groan, and curse, while they weep and gnash their teeth! The same thing will doubtless also be true of parents.
But let me turn over this picture, and look upon another. What a meeting it will be when all the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and the prophets, Elijah, and Elisha, and Isaiah, and Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, and all the minor prophets, and all the apostles, and faithful ministers of a later time, shall assemble in heaven! I have often thought of that wonderful convention which took place when the Saviour was upon earth the most wonderful, perhaps that ever occurred in this world. You remember the history of the event.Christ took Peter, James, and John with him up into a mountain and was transfigured before them,and there appeared Moses and Elijah the two great representatives of the old dispensation. There was Moses, by whom came the law; and Elijah, who represented the whole race of prophets, in conference with the head of the church triumphant, about the decease which he should accomplish at Jerusalem, and the three representatives of the church militant. What a scene of wonder was that! We are told that the glory was so intense that the apostles were quite overcome, and Peter said, "It is good for us to be here; let us build three tabernacles, one for thee, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." They were so near heaven, so filled with awe and delight, that they know not what they said.
Now just think for a moment how it will be by and by. Moses, for example, has been dead for thousands of years, and has long since become surrounded by a multitude who have found their way to heaven through his direct instruction, or by means of his writings which have been handed down from generation to generation; and all the saints will doubtless know Moses when they get there, of whom they have heard so much, as well as of the patriarch Abraham, and of the apostles and prophets; and when the newly arrived saint shall have a little time, after gazing at the wonders and glories of the place, he will look around for these ancient worthies, and perhaps shake them by the hand, and weep tears of gratitude and joy upon their necks.
Whitfield, who once stood in the pulpit in which I now stand, and the multitudes who heard his voice sitting in those pews in which you now sit, will meet in heaven. Think of that! How many thousands are gone that once saw and heard him; and they now find themselves again united in that blessed world. they are still rational and intelligent, and able to mingle their hearts and their joys; and the time will come when the whole church of God, pastors and people, will be gathered home to glory. O, how fast they are going. Why, since I have been in London I have heard of the departure of the Rev. Dr. Pye Smith,* together with this man and that man, names with which I have been familiar even in America. And so we are all following on, fathers, mothers, ministers, brothers, sisters, all are going. How many of this congregation have taken their flight since I have been here! Just look around. Of how many have I heard it said, they are gone, they are gone! We shall all be gone presently; and that very soon. But what a glorious thought that when we meet in that world of light and joy, the heavenly Jerusalem, it will be to part no more at all. Those of us who shall have our robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb, we shall meet to say farewell or adieu no more.
When I read to you at the commencement of this service the chapter from which the text is taken,I omitted the last three verses, which I will read now:" And when he had thus spoken, he kneeled down and prayed with them all. And they all wept sore, and fell on Paul's neck and kissed him,sorrowing most of all for the words which he spake, that they should see his face no more. Andthey accompanied him into the ship." What a beautiful parting: how deeply affecting. But I must not detain you. I have only to say this before I sit down; and to be sure I would do it with all humility, may I not ask you who have been my hearers since I have been in London, as a matter of justice to record tonight this fact, that according to my ability, I have dealt faithfully with your souls. I challenge you now to record this fact, for I am sure that you bear this testimony in your own consciences, will you bear it in mind at the solemn judgment, that so far as I have had ability I have kept nothing back that you needed to know. I do not say this boastfully: God will judge between us.
But some I fear I shall leave in their sins after all. Remember, I shall meet even you again. Do let me ask if you have yet begun the great work of preparing for the judgment. Have you not begun it yet? You have heard most solemn appeals and warnings; let me ask you once more, will you think? will you act? My dear hearers, will you rid me of all responsibility by saying, yes, yes, if I perish, it is not your fault, you have done your work faithfully, you have not daubed with untempered mortar, and I consent that the fact should be recorded in the solemn judgment that you are clear.
But I want not only to be able to feel the conviction of this in my own conscience, but that my record should be on high. I know it is vain for me to seek to justify myself, unless it is recorded in heaven that I have dealt faithfully with you. I trust I have. I shall see most of you probably no more, till we meet in the judgment; and oh, what a meeting that will be!
It is not my custom to preach farewell sermons, but when I have done my work to tear myself away, and leave the great Judge to seal up the record that shall be opened at the last day. Now all I have to say is this the last leaf connected with my ministry, and your hearing, in this place, is now to be folded and put away amongst the files of eternity to be exhibited when you and I shall stand before God in perfect light, with no self-excusing, no false pleas, we shall all be naked, honest, and open there. And now, sinner, may I beg of God to search my own heart and prepare me for that scene and to prepare you for it too. May I be allowed this once to call heaven and earth to record upon your souls, that in my weakness, and so far as I have had ability, I have set before you life and death, blessing and cursing, the gospel and the law, the rule of life, and opened, so far as I have been able, the gate of mercy, and shown you the heart of Jesus. Will you accept it? I must not add another word.
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THE CERTAIN DOOM OF THE IMPENITENT
PREACHED ON FRIDAY EVENING, MARCH 7, 1851,
BY THE REV. C.G. FINNEY
AT THE TABERNACLE, MOORFIELDS, LONDON.
This lecture was typed in by Bret Dambrauckas.
Reformatted by Katie Stewart
"He that being often reproved hardeneth his neck, shall suddenly be destroyed and that without remedy." --Proverbs xxix. 1.
There is nothing in the connection in which these words stand that require explanation; I shall, therefore, at once give you the outline of thought which I design to pursue.
I. I am to notice the true idea of reproof.
First, it does not necessarily enter into the idea of reproof that the individual reproved regards it,or look upon the events or circumstances which are designed to reprove, as a divine rebuke from God. Whatever is calculated in its own nature or relations to arrest the attention of the mind, and call men to a neglect of duty, or the obligation they owe to God, and the danger of their present condition, involves undoubtedly the true idea of reproof, whatever this may be.
II. With respect to The ways in which God administers reproof.
I observe first, that both the Bible and nature teaches that God exercises a universal providence. If it be true that God created the universe, he had a design in creating it; and if a design in its creation, it follows that he has made provision for the accomplishment of the design, what he had in its original construction that he has made provision for securing the end which he originally had in view. This is the true idea of divine providence. There have been started two or three different theories of divine providence. One is, that in the original creation, both of matter and mind, God furnished them with such laws as in their development should secure the great end for which he created the universe. Another theory of divine providence is, that God constantly superintends, and either by his own direct agency and superintendence, or through other agencies, to overlook and control and bring about what he designs and wills. Both these, however, agree in this, that the providence of God is universal. Both admit that God has control in some sense, if not in the same sense. In fact, God could not exercise control over the great events of the world, if he did not over the smaller ones also seeing that the one is made up of the others. Great events are made up of innumerable smaller ones; and if the smaller things are not under the divine direction, in such a sense as to be controlled by him, of course the great events made up of these smaller ones could not be either. The first system that I named is that of a general providence, which regards the whole universe as a vast machine, which having a law impressed upon it at its creation to work out its results, does not need the divine superintendence.The second theory regards God as superintending and adjusting all the laws of the universe,whether of matter or mind, and are thus made to work out those great results at which God aims.This latter theory regards God as constantly interfering in the spiritual world, and often in the natural world, making such arrangements and adjustments to avert certain results which would certainly come to pass. Those who hold this latter theory believe also that with respect to moral agency it is free, and that God never interferes with man's will by his superintendence. Another theory supposes that the universe is partly governed by irresistible laws impressed upon it at the beginning, and partly by direct superintendence; yet all admit that the providence of God is in some sense universal that God is immediately concerned in all that occurs, or knows what is about to occur; and he does not prevent it, because he knows it is wiser to let the law take its course. Now, when God created Adam and Eve he knew what would afterwards occur; and although he did not prevent their fall, he took care that their conduct should not defeat the great end for which he created the universe. Thus, God suffers everything to be done that is done, in the sense that he knows it is about to occur; or he is actively employed by positive agency in bringing everything about. God, in fact, has some design in everything that occurs in the whole universe, whether he actually originates it by positive and direct means, or only suffers it to occur, and so overrules it as to bring good out of it. Now, observe, God ofttimes administers reproof in his providential government. For example, the favours which he bestows upon those who are wicked, what are they but reproofs. Suppose a man should injure you, and you should show him some great kindness, would he not understand it to be a reproof? Suppose you met a man in the street that had done you some great injury, and you should show him some great favour, would he not regard it as a reproof? Take the case of Mr. Whitfield. When he was preaching on one occasion, an individual rose up and accused him of a great crime a thing of which he had never been guilty but the individual desired to injure him, and ruin his character in the eyes of the people. Well, what did he do? why, when he came out of the pulpit, he called the individual to him and gave her a guinea and turned away. This was intended to be a reproof; and doubtless it made such an impression as she never got over. What did Christ say? "If thine enemy hunger feed him, and if he thirst give him drink; for by so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head." Now, whether it was wise in Mr.Whitfield to act as he did or not, it was evidently intended as a reproof! And does not God intend the favours which he bestows upon the wicked as reproofs? They may think that they receive them because they are deserved: their self-righteousness may say this; but who does not see that this is not true? "He makes his sun to
rise on the evil and on the good, on the just and on the unjust."How can men prowl about at night in the dark, and not feel ashamed and rebuked when the sun shines upon them in the morning? I knew a man once who had been quarreling all night, and when the sun shone upon him in the morning, he was so cut to the heart, that he was led to repent of his sins. He felt astonished that God should suffer his sun to shine upon such a wretch as he knew himself to be. It is wonderful that when men have been engaged in some great wickedness, and God comes right out and shows them some great favour, that they do not feel infinitely ashamed of themselves, and blush and hang their heads down for very shame. The fact is, although some men may, on account of their self-righteousness, suppose that these things are given as a reward for their goodness that all God's favours are so many reproofs; as if God should say, you have refused to obey my commands, you have broken my law, you have taken my name in vain, you have profaned my Sabbaths, while I have fed you, and clothed you, and given you a home and friends; what do you think of yourself? you live in sin and yet I keep you alive; I watched over you in the dark, and then you rise up in the morning and rebel against me. I have done all this for you and yet you abuse me still; what do you think of yourself? See how much love I have shown towards you, how many good things I have done for you, how I have persevered in doing you good, and yet you have rebelled against me; are you not ashamed of yourself? Now God does not bestow his favours without some design; and that is to lead the sinner to repentance. "Knowest thou not that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?" He gives sinners such a look sometimes that one would suppose would kill them, and break their hearts, and make them burst out into loud weeping. When they abuse him, he steps up to them with his hands full of blessings, but says nothing. How many times has he done so to sinners in this house? What do you think of it? You have forfeited your life and exposed it to eternal death. Have you not had reason to suppose that a thunderbolt would fall upon your head? But instead of that, God opens your hand and supplies you with all needful good. Do you suppose that he does this because he approves of what you have done? You did not understand it so, but that he meant to reprove you for what you had done. By these gifts he meant to reprove you for your ingratitude and your sin; just as you by the same conduct would have meant to reprove an individual who had done you some great injury. You tried to shame him out of his bad conduct, to break his heart, and to make him feel how wrong and wicked his conduct was.
Again: by judgments God ofttimes administers reproof. By judgments, I mean those things that are not regarded by men as merciful dispensations, but as very untoward circumstances. Now, they are designed, everyone of them to administer reproof and when mercy fails, judgment shall take its place. God interposes in a great many ways to save men. Sometimes persons are, no doubt, warned by dreams, although I do not think that dreams can be relied on, because they are very generally occasioned by the state of the health or the nervous system; yet it is manifest that they are ofttimes providential, and have been so in every age of the world. There have been striking instances in which persons have been warned by dreams; I have heard many such things related myself, as no doubt other persons have also; and sometimes, doubtless, they are to be received as warnings. President Edwards relates a very remarkable and striking instance of warning given to a man by means of a dream. In his congregation there was a notorious drunkard, who had for many years absented himself from the house of God and given himself up to strong drink. One night this man had a dream, and he dreamed that he went to hell. I need not enter into the circumstances as to what he saw there, because that would take too long, and be quite unnecessary. However, he was greatly agonized, and prayed to the Lord to give him one trial more, and let him return to earth: well, the Lord gave him leave to do so for one year, and if he was not reformed in that time, he should surely return to hell. The man, as might be supposed, was greatly distressed about this dream, and he went to President Edwards in the course of a few days and related it to him.President Edwards told him that he ought to regard it as a providential warning from God, and hat it was unwise not to regard it as such. For a time, the man broke off his old vice, and betook imself to the house of God. few months only, however, passed away before he went on in his old career, till be became as bad, if not worse than ever. One day he had been drinking a great deal, and became very intoxicated, and being unable to get home, he was carried into a carpenter's shop, and laid down among the shavings: in the night he awoke, and attempted to go down the stairs, when he fell and broke his neck. As this dream had seemed very remarkable to President Edwards, he noted it down in his common-place book at the time that it was related to him, and when he heard of the man's death, he referred to the entry, and found to his amazement that it was just a year that very night. I mention this fact for the purpose of illustrating what I mean, that ofttimes, God in dreams, as well as various other ways, reproves persons for their sins. He does it by his Word, his writings, by sermons, and indeed by every way this is calculated to remind the sinner that he is not doing his duty.
Again: the Holy Spirit reproves, by convincing the sinner of his sins, and producing
in his mind visitations of remorse. But I cannot enter further upon this, and show
how the Holy Ghost works upon the conscience by every means likely to wake the sinner
up to a knowledge of what he is about. I come then, in the next place to inquire.
III. The design of reproof.-
Undoubtedly it is designed to effect a reformation. He means to secure this end by forbearance.By reproof he tries to convert and save him if he can; he uses every means to make men trophies of mercy; he intends to leave all men without excuse. I may appeal to every sinner in this house, if God has not pursued a course with you calculated to leave you without excuse! At one time, perhaps, he pursued you, or is pursuing you with loving-kindnesses and tender mercies, as if he would melt you down by acts of forbearance and love. But when he finds that will not do, then he uses the rod. When you resist his mild reproof, he will turn and smite you. By all means he reproves you. But are you reformed? For that is his great object. In the next place-
IV. What is intended by hardening the neck under Divine reproof? -
You observe the language is figurative. Reference is made by it, you observe, to the bullock working with a yoke upon his neck. The practice of using bullocks in this manner is not, I find, so common here as it is in America and some other lands. When they are so employed, the neck becomes callous. The yoke often produces a very hard substance upon the neck, by the constant pushing against it. The men that are spoken of here are represented as constantly pushing against God's providence, and thus making their necks hard. The figure is very striking. The bullock when it first wears the yoke becomes sore-necked; sometimes quite unable to bear it on for days, but by degrees it becomes so accustomed to it that its neck gets completely hardened. And thus the conscience of the sinner becomes quite callous under reproof if he does not yield to it. Reproof may be administered, but he does not feel it any more than the bullock does the yoke.
V. But what is intended by being suddenly destroyed? -
Opposition and destruction will always go together. The Bible teaches this in every place. "When they shall cry peace and safety, then sudden destruction cometh upon them, like travail upon a woman with child and they shall not escape." By resisting reproof men become hardened, so that they do not fear the Divine judgments. The conscience becomes so stupefied, that men lose the sense of danger; and it is just then that the danger in reality becomes greater. But although men have been heedless of danger, yet "damnation slumbereth not," and therefore it is that God says, they shall be suddenly destroyed.
But let me say again: it shall come upon them sooner than they expect. "God
is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; he is not willing
that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance;" and therefore
he uses means so long as there is any hope; yet after destruction will come "suddenly,"
and much sooner than they expect. This was the case with the old world. God warned
them by Noah for one hundred and twenty years, but they took no heed, and the flood
came suddenly, when they did not expect it. But I must pass over this, and inquire-
VI. What it is to be destroyed "without remedy!" -
How often I have been reminded of this text when I have stood by the dying bed of not a few individuals. It was no use trying to help them, for God had determined to destroy them. The minister is sent to pray for the dying man. He cannot pray: God will not hear. No matter if the entire universe interposes: he will not alter his purpose. How often have I felt shocked and horrified under such circumstances. When God makes up his mind to destroy a man, every chance of his being saved has passed away. Having been often reproved he is suddenly destroyed, and that without remedy. All the means that men can employ will be without avail. There is no help for such a man in the whole universe.
But I must pass to make a few remarks.
First: it should always be understood that there is a relation between every part of the Divine economy; and sometimes indeed things in providence occur under such circumstances that even infidels will say it is the work of God; and not infrequently, these providential dispensations will make the ears of good men to tingle. God will reveal himself in such a manner as to shock them.
Again: it is often very affecting to see how God will interpose to save several by the destruction of one. He takes away one of a circle, that those who remain may take warning. I have often noticed such things myself. One member of the family is a great stumbling block to the others; God steps in and cuts him down in order that he may save the rest. How striking such providences are. Several such cases have occurred in my own experience since I have been in the ministry, and many others have been repeated to me. Individuals have given themselves up to oppose revivals of religion; have agreed to resist and stand out against all efforts to revive the cause of God, and have been cut down in a most signal and awful manner. I could name cases, but is it not important to do so, as such events are by no means uncommon.
But again: every sermon you hear is designed to be a reproof to you if you are in an impenitent state. And let me say, reproof will have some effect it will either make you better or worse. Always understand this. Every word of God and every providence will either be a savor of life or death to the soul. It should be remembered that the whole system of providence is but a vast system of Divine instruction.Some people try to make a distinction between the word of God and the providence of God; but they should understand that the lessons taught are the same, and that the God who created the universe is the same that dictated the Bible. Every event in providence is teaching men lessons just the same as the Bible; "Whether they will hear or whether they will forbear." If men will not receive the truth of God's word, they cannot help being instructed as they pass along under his providence and works. Everything speaks to them and reproves them. "He speaketh once, yea twice," whether men regard it or not. Men are therefore preparing for either heaven or hell. Every step each of you takes is conducting you nearer and nearer to the solemn judgment, and everything cries out, "Prepare to meet thy God!" Sinner! beware, you are passing on to the judgment, and God's voice is everywhere loudly calling upon you to be ready to meet him: let the voice be heard!
Once more: the danger of men is great, just in proportion as they cease to be effected by a sense of it, and reproofs cease to be regarded as Divine admonitions just in that proportion is their destruction hastening. When men feel the most secure, if they are living in sin, then destruction is most certain; and of course when it does come it will be sudden, because they do not expect it at all.
Now mark, this is not arbitrary on the part of God: it is a natural consequence of the sinner's conduct. God admonishes and warns in a thousand ways; and he tells men if they will not give heed he will surely punish them; and if he did not, they would despise him themselves. He does not lead men to expect one result, and then bring about another: he is honest with them, and what he says, he will do, depend upon it. It is often very affecting to see what a state of mind men will manifest sometimes when they have found themselves being drawn into the vortex. The providence of God in its dealings with men has sometimes seemed to me like the Niagara Falls in America. The water of this immense cataract pours over the rocks in one great broad, mighty fall, as smooth as glass; and comes down upon the water below with such wonderful force as to cut right into it. No foam is visible at the place where it enters, but it rushes along under the surface, and then rises again at about a mile and a half distant, and rolls itself up in mighty masses of spray and foam. The water thus forms an eddy of vast extent. Towards the edges of the circle the power is not very great, but increases every inch as you near the centre, where everything that reaches it is instantly engulfed.The sinner has got into such a circle, you call and tell him that he is in danger, but he does not believe it. As you see the dangers increase, you raise the voice still higher, but he regards it not. By and by he hears the mighty roar: he then sees his danger, but it is too late, he is swallowed bythe mighty vortex; "suddenly destroyed." The whole universe may call, but his soul will be lost though black as hell!
Sinner! O sinner! How long shall God warn you? How long will you despise reproof? Be admonished: be warned: be entreated: be persuaded. Cast away your sins: put away your rebellious heart and your neck of iron. Sinner, make up your mind to give your heart to God. Let your language be, "Speak, Lord; thy servant heareth." Will you say, O my Father, my God, I will sin against thee no more: I am ashamed; I am confounded; I have received good things from thee, and have abused thee for them. Thou hast offered me salvation, but I have refused it! Can I hope for forgiveness? Can I be forgiven? But forgiven or not, I will not go on in this way any longer: God being my helper, I will not. I will renounce my rebellion against God this night: now, in this house: this shall be the last hour that God shall have to complain of me, for I will no longer harden my neck against the calls of his providence. I now yield myself up to God, I give up all my sins, I consecrate myself to him; the rest of my life shall be the Lord's. My time, talents, property, everything I have shall be yielded up to his honour and glory. Will every sinner now in this house, thus renounce their sins, and give themselves up to God and say, here we are, Lord, at thy feet; O write thy name upon our hearts, and let us henceforth live entirely to thee!
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THE AWFUL INGRATITUDE OF THE SINNER
delivered on Sunday evening, December 29, 1850
by the Rev. Professor Finney
(of Andeavoring College, U. S.)
At the Tabernacle, Moorfields, London
This lecture was typed in by Joon H. Lee.
Reformatted by Katie Stewart
"And they have rewarded me evil for good, and hatred for my love." --Psalm cix. 5
David was the type of Christ, and it was common for him to write Psalms in which there was manifestly much reference to the Messiah. The spirit of prophecy within him speaks many things in these Psalms, particularly applicable to himself as the type of Christ, but applicable also to Christ himself; and in this case he speaks both of himself and of Christ. Some portions of the Psalms are quoted by the New Testament writers as having been spoken of Christ; and this passage is evidently of the same character. In proceeding to discuss this subject I shall,
I. Notice a few particulars in which Christ may be said to love the sinner and be hated in return.
I shall now run rapidly over a few particulars in which sinners reward Christ evil for good and return hatred for his love. Christ gives sinners their very existence. They are indebted to him for all they have and are; all things are given over into his hands, and he administers the government of God for the benefit of sinners. He preserves their lives, and bears with them continually in the midst of their sins: He is long-suffering towards them; He lived in this world, denying himself for them; for their sakes He suffered the deepest poverty and disgrace. Whoever was in such deep distress as Christ was a great part of his life! - whoever was in greater poverty! He says, "the foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay his head." He is represented in the Gospel as having become poor, "that we, through his poverty, might become rich." He suffered himself to be covered with the bitterest reproaches for our sakes, until he complains that reproach had broken his heart.
Everyone who has been reproached for doing good will form some idea of what he means by saying this. Again, he laboured with such zeal for the good of souls that he says, "the zeal of my house hath eaten me up." He toiled by day and by night, from town to town, to do them good, and many times he spent whole nights in prayer. We have reason to believe that at the early age of thirteen his appearance was much beyond his years. It is said of him that "his visage was marred beyond any man's." He is represented as bearing your griefs and carrying your sorrows. You recollect how beautifully this is represented by Isaiah. I will read some passages in which this is particularly brought out: - " Surely he hath borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions, he was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement of our peace was upon him, and by his stripes we are healed."
This is descriptive of what Christ has done for sinners. He suffered death at their hands, and then - strange to tell! - turned right around and proposed to make the blood which they have thus murderously shed the very medium by which they might be saved! Who has ever heard of such love as this? The very blood which their murderous hands have shed is made to atone for their sins. He is still as ready to do them good as ever - always living to befriend them, and sitting now at the right hand of God to make intercession for them; all sinners are spared from day to day, and kept in existence by him. You are spared, like the barren fig tree, through his intercession, when justice would otherwise cut you down. Notwithstanding all your abuse of him, he is still ever ready to step forth to preserve you when you will accept his offered mercy. When justice would cut you down he steps forward in your behalf, and that you are out of hell is solely owing to his prayer - " Oh! spare him yet." Having thus shown his love to the sinner, I shall,
II. Notice some particulars wherein sinners reward him evil for good.
That the Jews did this is generally admitted. I have never heard anyone who believed the Gospel deny that Christ laboured assiduously for their good, and that they returned him hatred for his love. But do others do it? Yes, sinners, you do it, and that continually! He gives you life, and what do you do with that very existence in this world, which is only prevented from being snapped off by his intercession? I mean you, sinner; what are you doing with the life he gives and prolongs? What do you do with it? what have you always done with it? What! do you only use it to oppose his law and authority? Again, there is your time; how do you spend that? He spares you from day to day, and how do you occupy yourself? He gives you time, and commands you to repent - have you done so? Oh! no; but your whole existence is one continued act of opposition to him who has thus wonderfully befriended you! He has given you talents - what do you do with them? Wherein is your power? - education, property, talents, or influence? What do you render to him for all the good which he has bestowed upon you? Do you really render evil for all this good? Do you use your money, talents, and education against him? Ah! your impenitence tells the story! I need not bring a railing accusation against you. He gave you heaving lungs, and enables you to breathe, but every breath is breathed in opposition to him. What other gift of his providence have you that you are not using against him? And is not this rendering him evil for his good? Suppose a child is to do this to a parent - suppose your little ones use every gift you bestow on them against you. But again. It is remarkable moreover, that the more he gives, the more and more proud you wax, and the more stoutly you stand up against him. Just in proportion as he loads sinners down with blessings and obligations, instead of being conducted to him, they are the further from knowing him. He has multiplied their blessings, but every one of them is conscious of sin and rebellion against him. They wax rich and great in affluence and talent, and are surrounded with favours, and by-and-bye they become so proud and full of themselves - so great in their own esteem - that they will not suffer an Ambassador from Heaven to tell them the truth. How strange is this!
But let me say again, the longer he spares sinners the more abusive and presumptuous they become. See sinners, the older they get, the longer they are spared, the more they are loaded down with favours, till their heads are covered with the frosts of many winters, and the more rebellious, and stupid, and sottish in their sins they become! The longer he defers their punishment, the more they tempt his forbearance.
Again. That all sinners render to Christ evil for good, and hatred for his love is manifest from this; sin from its very nature, is a rejection of Christ's authority in all the relations which he sustains towards men. It is, moreover, a practical and public denial of their obligations to Christ. It is also an insult to his person, and an opposition to his efforts to do them and others good. All sin, from its very nature, is sympathy with hell, and antipathy to heaven. Moreover, sinners hate to be reminded of their obligations to Christ, and will not quietly submit to it even from their best friends. Many a husband in his sins will scarcely allow his pious wife, whose spirit has wept almost tears of blood over his soul, to speak to him about his duty. No. The fact that sinners render him hatred for his love is most evident. How much they are disturbed if they hear Christ spoken of, and his name praised! Go almost any where and you will find this opposition manifested.
It is plain that sinners do not sympathize with Christ's friends, but that they do actually sympathize with his enemies. This is clear and easily demonstrable, in a thousand ways, had I time to dwell upon them. I will notice one or two as they arise in my mind. Sinners show their hatred to him by their gratification in the things which grieve him, they make light of sin, and exult when religion is dishonored by its professors. They manifest their gratification and instead of praying for the saints and trying to support them, under their temptations to disobey God, they actually throw obstacles in their way. They appear to approve of the temptation rather than grieve when it is not resisted. When saints sin, they triumph. See how ready they are to take up an evil report against their neighbours, especially should that neighbour profess Christianity. They would not feel this if they were Christ's friends, in any sense of the term. It is extremely unnatural for us to believe evil of those we love, and with whom we have sympathy. If sinners, therefore, had sympathy with Christ and his people it would be utterly unnatural for them to act thus towards them.
It is also extremely unnatural for us to promote the circulation of such reports concerning those who love Christ. We should be careful of the reputation of Christ's children if we loved them. Are sinners grieved when Christ and his cause are dishonoured by those who profess to fear his name? - and are they careful rather to conceal, than to disseminate that which is disgraceful concerning them? No! they are not only very credulous in believing scandal of this kind, but too frequently, manifest a corresponding diligence in circulating it. This enmity to Christ is a mortal enmity. The Jews displayed this to the fullest extent. They were not satisfied with anything short of his life. Sinners refuse to submit to Christ's authority and embrace the Gospel offer, and so far as their altered circumstances permit, they manifest precisely the spirit of the Jews of old who hung him on the accursed tree.
But again. This hatred of the sinner to Christ is supreme. There are more opposed to him and his work than to anything else in all the universe. On all other subjects how comparatively easily it is to gain adherents and make to yourselves friends. In many cases where the enmity has been of lengthened duration and intense to a degree, a change of circumstances will frequently reconcile the opponents. It is with political and social disagreements; even where the antipathy has become in a sense, hereditary on both sides, a circumstance sometimes arises which makes reconciliation a mutual advantage, and how speedily they become united! There are many remarkable cases on record of such persons having eventually become not only friends, but firm and attached friends, to a degree corresponding with or perhaps even exceeding their former enmity. They have become not only willing to do each other good, but unwilling to say or even to believe that which is evil concerning each other. This is, in fact, quite a common occurrence. Where do you find enmity existing between parties which cannot be overcome even by a moderate exhibition of kindness and love? But how is it with the sinner?
Few men readily understand how deep their enmity to Christ is, and in order to have a proper appreciation of this they must consider what Christ has done, what he is doing, and what he has promised to do for them. Suppose that in this city there are two men who have long been enemies. Suppose that this has gone on so long and arrived at such a pitch that their families have come to regard each other as mortal enemies simply because of their family name and relationship. They scarcely look at each other when they pass in the street. But suppose this ill feeling to be all on one side. Suppose the one man to have a deep-rooted enmity against the other. Suppose there had never been any actual quarrel, but that the one had continually misapprehended and abused the other, and followed him with persecution and slander from time to time. The other had done him good, treated him kindly, when embarrassed in business - lent him money and tried in every way to gain his confidence but all to no purpose.
The one is riding in the park and meets a dearly beloved son of the other in his carriage; the horses take fright and the son is all but thrown out. Mark how at the risk of his life, this gentleman rushes to save him: he seizes the horses by the bits and thus saves the life of his enemy's son. The young man, of course, is moved when he sees who it is to whom he is so greatly indebted. He goes home and relates the fact to his father who is much affected and hangs down his head.
"Did he know you?" he asked the son.
"Oh! yes; and he not only saved my life but kindly spoke to me in terms of encouragement, and blessed me."
This very night the father is aroused and discovers his house in flames. The very carpet is on fire beneath his feet. The house is ready to fall in. There is a terrible rush of the crowd in the streets; but there seems to be no way of escape, either right or left. The flames are pouring up the staircase and out of the just opened window. Just under these circumstances an individual comes rushing up the staircase and gathers up one after the other and hurries off to a place of safety. The women faint, the children scream; and their father on recovering, finds himself reclining in the arms of his deliverer. Ah! who is this deliverer? "Why this very man who a few hours ago hazarded his life to save my son! and he has now sadly burned himself to save me?" How effectually have those circumstances changed the relation which these two persons held towards each other! If he had strength sufficient remaining the father would fall on his knees to his deliverer and bathed his feet with his tears, and if the fire had spared his hair he would wipe them with it! Does he say, "don't you see that my heart is so hard that I can't love you notwithstanding?" No, indeed. Whenever you mention that man's name you mention the name of a friend; and aught that is spoken against him now will grieve him. He is ready now to confide in him - to think and speak well of him.
But now look at the enmity of the sinner, in spite of all that God daily and hourly does for him. When a little one and helpless he kept your little lungs in motion. How often his hand unseen interposed to save your life, when disease was dragging you pale and quivering down to the gates of death! As you have grown up he has followed you with kindness. When death has lurked in ambush he has always watched kindly over you, and you are tonight not only out of hell but able to come to the house of God. And after all this good how do you stand affected towards him? Has it produced any change in your heart? Ah! you are treasuring up to yourselves wrath against the day of wrath and the revelation of the righteous judgment of God.
I shall now proceed to point out a little more definitely this peculiar feature of the sinner's conduct - that really this opposition and hatred is rendered to him for his love. My object under this head is to show what is the reason of their opposition to Christ. In the first place that sinners have really no good reason for their hatred and opposition to Christ is admitted by everybody; and it is also admitted that this is done in defiance of his love, or at least regardless of it. They have nothing to hate him for, He has never been as men are -partly good and partly evil, sometimes deserving well of sinners and sometimes deserving ill of them. They can't say that in some things he had done them good, but that he has done other things for which they have reason to hate him. No! They have nothing but love for which to hate him!
The real reason for this opposition is that he is their moral opposite. All his great love is in direct opposition to their selfishness. His infinite holiness is in direct contradiction to it; it is also a contradiction to say that one so opposite to Christ should not be opposed to him, opposed because he stands out in contrast right over against him! His infinite benevolence is in direct contrast to their selfishness, and while they entertain this selfishness it must be opposed to his benevolence; while they entertain a spirit of injustice they must stand opposed to his justice; while they continue to entertain a spirit of unmerciful-ness they must stand opposed to his justice; while they continue to entertain a spirit of unmercifulness they must stand opposed to his mercy; their falsehood to his truth, his righteousness to their unrighteousness. There are moral opposites, and it is impossible for sinners while in such a state of mind to be otherwise than opposed to him. It is not because he is evil that they are opposed to him; they do not hate him for that reason, but simply because he is good. They being evil, naturally hate one so diametrically opposed to them.
Again. It is impossible but that the very efforts he makes to save them from sin should excite their hostility. This has always been, and always must be the case. They love the yoke of their sins; and his pressing them to give them up and thus therefore while he insists on their doing what they are unwilling to do, this opposition will continue. The more persevering and long-suffering he is, the more will they oppose and hate him. By "hatred" I do not mean that sinners are always conscious of such a feeling; but there it is - a ceaseless resistance to all his efforts to do them good. Their carnal minds are at enmity against him.
This leads me to make a few general remarks, and the first is this - Nothing wounds a virtuous mind more deeply than ingratitude. Every person who has had experience on this subject knows that the consciousness of having done a particular favour to an ungrateful individual is deeply painful. Parents know what this is - they know how bitter is filial ingratitude. Everyone who has done much good has felt this to some degree; they have never had, perhaps, in some cases hatred rendered for their love. This is a most grievous thing; from the nature of mind it is deeply wounding. Many of you perhaps know the bitterness of the sting you have felt when obliged to say of a child or someone you have greatly befriended - They have rendered me "evil for good," and "hatred" for my love.
At the same time this is nothing more amazing than the consciousness of having deserved well of those who hate you. It is a great satisfaction to be able to say, "Ah! I did not merit such treatment at their hands. It is rendering me "evil" for my "good." Christ will not fail to have this consolation - Sinner! are you glad of it? I need not ask the Christian for I know that he must rejoice at the thought. Christ will have this reflection when he sees the smoke of their torment rolling up and up forever and ever! I tried to do them good," he will say "and they not only vexed me without cause but they returned hatred for my love!" I ask you sinner, are you glad of it? If you persevere in your sins and die in them are you glad that Christ will be always able to say this! When you listen - if the inhabitants of hell are permitted - to the song of heaven, what will you say when you see that Christ enjoys the luxury of knowing that he died to save you - that he offered to do you all possible good, but that you rendered him hatred for his love?
From the nature of mind as we have it revealed to us in consciousness there is no remorse so unendurable as that which results from the conviction that we have "rewarded evil for good; and hatred for love." Anyone who has ever been thoroughly convicted of this sin, I have no doubt will agree with me. Anyone who has desired to be honest with himself and let his conscience speak has known something of what that bitterness is which results from the reflection of having rendered evil for good. Even in matters relating to this world, it is one of the most poignant sufferings which can be endured; for example when an individual remembers that he has injured one who has after all done him good and nothing but good - that he wronged those who have sought his welfare - how deeply that cuts! how invariably and unindurably it wounds the conscience! when they think - I have rendered evil for good, and hatred for love - from the very nature of the mind, as I have said, it is one of the bitterest agonies that can seize the mind.
Again. Sinners will carry their minds to hell, and if they die in their sins they cannot fail to have this reflection. What a thought! Memory will there be perfect; here, as the body grows old from the very nature of the relations of the mind to it, memory fails, in fact it is one of the first faculties that begins to decay; but, when the body is thrown down, there is reason to believe that memory will be perfect. Circumstances often occur here to show how wonderful memory may be. I know a young man who was once near drowning, and he said it seemed to him that he remembered everything that he had ever done with perfect distinctness in a moment.
I have often seen that peculiar circumstances of strong excitement will so call up in the memory from the deep oblivion multitudes of things which have taken place and been long forgotten by the individual. Many remarkable illustrations of this have been recorded. It is no doubt true, therefore, that men are destined, from the nature of their minds, to remember and distinguish through every period of their existence every fact of their history. From the nature of mind it is sometimes crippled by the infirmities of the body; and there is reason to believe, from many facts, that as soon as the body is thrown off from the mind - as soon as this incumbrance is got rid of - it will remember with the utmost precision every minute occurrence in their existence. No doubt this will prove a fearful addition to the future misery of the lost. God has not so constructed the mind of moral agents as to have facts pass forever from it. It is striking sometimes to see, when persons draw close to the verge of the grave, what an amazing power the memory has; there seems to be such a mighty resuscitation of their memory that their faculties seem to arouse themselves, and burst forth with an astonishing splendour and energy.
Perhaps some of you will recollect a case reported to have occurred in Germany some years back: a young woman who was accustomed to hear her master, a minister, read his Hebrew bible aloud in his study, while she was at work in the room adjoining. She could hear him read aloud to himself for his own gratification. Without understanding the meaning of the sounds she heard, or being able to divide one word from another, she became so familiarized with it, that when she became very sick, and was on the verge of death, she began to talk, as they supposed, in "the unknown tongue," but which turned out to be Hebrew, and the matter was passages of Scripture, which she repeated with the same intonations of voice her former master was accustomed to give them. She recited verse after verse verbatim, just as she had heard them read. This may serve to show how the mind of the moral agent hereafter awakes.
If this be so, when sinners come to reflect on the circumstances of their past history, over and over and over again - their ingratitude to Christ in return for his love, will look them steadfastly in the face, and they will be obliged to remember it. They will find it impossible to avoid doing so. What more will be needed to create eternal and unendurable torment than to be obliged to read over and over again the tablets of your memory - the horrible record of a protracted opposition to him who died to save you?
One moment's view of the fact of Christ's having deserved so well of you, and of the hatred you have rendered for his love, will fully reconcile the saints to the justice of your dreadful doom. They will have good reason to be reconciled even if their own children be punished, and those whom they loved best on earth. Can they rebel against Christ when he finds it impossible any longer to spare the sinner? No! They cannot.
The conduct of sinners will appear to the universe to have been infinitely disgraceful. What would you think of a child who should treat his parent as you treat Christ? Would you not despise him, and reject him as an unsuitable associate? Would you have such a sinner for a companion? What then will be thought of you, sinner, in a future world when you come to be seen in your true colours?
Once more. The most blessed and honoured here will doubtless be despised most there. I mean the sinner who has had the greatest number of blessings here, and abused them, will be the most despised there. Sinners will not themselves admit that they render evil for good; the Jews of old assigned another reason for their opposition to Christ; they would not admit that they rendered hatred for his love; but, nevertheless, we all know that they did. Just so it is with sinners in these days; they will not admit it is Christ's goodness they oppose; but they know it is, and that they oppose him only because of his opposition to their sins, and because of his endeavors to do them good. You know very well you are without excuse, sinner! And now the question is, will you continue to persecute Christ? Shall he ever have, from this hour, to say of you that you continue to render him evil for good, and hatred for his love? What do you say, sinner?
FOR MORE SERMONS BY C. G. FINNEY:
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"These sermons were preached by Pres. Finney at Oberlin during the years 1845-1861... Few preachers in any age have surpassed Pres. Finney in clear and well-defined views of conscience, and of man's moral convictions; few have been more fully at home in the domain of law and government; few have learned more of the spiritual life from experience and from observation; not many have discriminated the true from the false more closely, or have been more skillful in putting their points clearly and pungently. Hence, these sermons under God were full of spiritual power. They are given to the public in this form, in the hope that at least a measure of the same wholesome saving power may never fail to bless the reader." -HENRY COWLES.
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