What Saith the Scripture?
HOLINESS OF CHRISTIANS IN THE PRESENT LIFE --No. 6
Putting on Christ
by Charles Grandison Finney
President of Oberlin College
Oberlin Evangelist" Publication of Oberlin College
March 15, 1843
Public Domain Text
Reformatted by Katie Stewart
"But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the
flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof."
It is my purpose to show,
I. What is intended by this command.
II. What is implied in obeying it.
III. Some of the essential conditions of obedience to it.
IV. Obligation to obey this command is universal.
V. Obedience to the requirements of this text is naturally indispensable to salvation.
VI. Some of the consequences of obeying this requirement.
VII. Consequences of disobeying it.
I. What is intended by this command.
I observe that the idea is taken from the drama; "To put on a person,"
is to assume his character, and peculiarities, as an actor does on the stage. This
commandment, therefore, enjoins the imitation of Christ, as actors imitate those
whom they represent.
II. What is implied in obeying this command.
- 1. It implies the putting away of selfishness. Christ was not selfish. Selfishness
is the preference of self-gratification, to the will of God, and the good of the
universe, and Christ never did this. The Apostle adds, "and make no provision
for the flesh, to fulfill the lusts thereof." Here, he contrasts "putting
on Christ," and "making provision for the flesh," which is the same
as selfishness. Paul was more philosophical than any of the sacred writers, and employs
the language--"works of the flesh," "following after the flesh,"
"carnal mind," & c. to designate the nature of sin. But the whole Bible
condemns self-seeking as wrong, and inconsistent with the true service of God, or
imitation of Christ.
- 2. It implies living for the same end for which Christ lived. What was his end?
Not the gratification of self, but the well-being of the universe, and whoever puts
Him on must adopt the same end.
- 3. It implies the same singleness of eye. Christ's eye was not double, but exclusively
directed to one end, the glory of God.
- 4. It implies such a sympathy with Him, as to beget an imitation of Him. A profound
sympathy is necessary to, and naturally begets imitation.
III. Some of the essential conditions of obedience to this command.
- 1. The first thing essential, is a deep and intense study of his character, until
the great principle of his action is clearly perceived--the real idea of the end
for which he lived clearly developed. Persons attempting to imitate others, must
give the closest attention. This is essential to the success of a dramatic actor,
or any other artist. Who, when looking at a picture by West, and observing all its
delicate shadings, has not been struck with the deep attention which the artist must
have given to his subject? One shade is stronger, and another weaker, exactly exhibiting
the position, and form of each limb, and the various expressions of countenance and
attitude, appropriate to the circumstances of the person represented. Now in order
to express these things, by colorings on the canvass, the artist must have studied
most intensely. So it is with a good actor. He does not merely commit and rehearse
his piece as a school-boy does on the stage. He does not stand and spout it off in
recitation style, but seeks to represent his character in dress, habit, spirit, style,
manner, and every thing, and in this consists the perfection of the dramatic art.
Now the Apostle commands us thus to put on Christ--to imitate Him--to give intense
thought to get at the true idea of his character, and to commit the mind fully to
the same end, to which He was devoted. To enjoy a piece of poetry, you must put yourself
into the same state of mind in which the author was when he wrote it. Then as you
read it, your tone and manner will naturally represent him. This is the difficulty
with so many in reading hymns. They read as though they did not at all apprehend
the sentiment, and without emotion. The reason is, either they have not the spirit
of devotion, or they have not at all given attention to the sentiment of the hymn.
But to represent Christ we must catch his spirit, and make his grand end and aim
ours. Then we shall act as He would under like circumstances.
- 2. Another essential is, you must fully believe that through grace you can put
Him on. While you don't believe you can, of course you cannot. No one can intend
to do what he believes he cannot do. It is absurd to suppose the contrary. No one
intends to fly. Why? Because every one knows he cannot. We may wish to fly, while
we do not believe we can, but to intend it is impossible. So unless you believe you
can put on Christ, it is utterly impossible that you should intend to do it, and
this is the great reason why so many never actually put Him on.
- 3. You must, therefore, not only fully believe that you can, but you must actually
intend to put on Christ--to make Him your whole example. Unless it is intended, it
will never be done by accident.
- 4. You must be fully prepared to make any sacrifice--you must count the cost,
and make up your mind to meet the expense necessary to the accomplishment of this
end. You must make any sacrifice of friends, property, or credit, which stand in
the way. The Lord Jesus Christ teaches this, and warns persons not to make themselves
ridiculous by beginning to build, without being able to finish. The truth is, unless
persons have made up their minds to the absolute sacrifice of whatever hinders their
fully putting on Christ, they have not got hold of the very first principle of religion.
- 5. You must realize the importance of doing this. Suppose a dramatic author should
write an admirable drama, adapted powerfully to awaken the attention, and arouse
the passions of the spectators of its exhibition, but the actors should so poorly
prepare themselves, and so poorly act it, as perfectly to misrepresent him. It is
easy to see how they would injure the credit, both of the author and drama. So persons
who do not fully put on the Lord Jesus Christ, while they profess to be his followers,
are doing Him, and his cause, the greatest injury of which they are capable. They
should then realize the infinite importance of fully representing Him.
- 6. Another condition of putting on Christ is, that you should keep up a constant
intercourse with Him. You must commune with Him in prayer without ceasing. Who does
not know that an actor needs to drink into, and commune with the spirit of the author
profoundly, if he would truly represent him. He must get the state of mind of the
man who wrote it; in short he must "put on" the writer. If he does not
he will misrepresent him. So there must be constant communion with the Spirit of
Christ, in order to put Him on and act just as He would.
- 7. You must not rest while there is any unrepented, unconfessed sin between your
soul and Him. You must keep a clear medium. I will explain what I mean. You have
seen two friends who have been for a long time agreed, and have taken sweet counsel
together, but by and by a little difference creeps in between them--a little mist
begins to obscure the medium, and now, when they meet, you will begin to see it in
the eye and countenance; there is a little flutter in their manner; and unless it
be immediately removed, it will increase, until, finally, they will turn their backs
upon each other. So with a husband and wife; how careful should they be to keep a
clear medium of mental intercourse. Suppose a husband has grieved his wife. Now,
if he is a man of sensibility, he cannot be at ease; he goes to pray, he remembers
the wound which he has inflicted, he can pray no further; he rises from his knees,
and goes and confesses to his wife the injury he has done her. The cloud is now removed
from the medium, and he is happy. So with the Christian. If he has grieved Christ,
and injured his tender feelings, he can have no farther communion with Him, until
he has repented, and confessed his faults, and the tender breathings of mutual love
are again restored.
- 8. You must cease from all self-dependence. So long as you depend on yourself,
you will see no need of putting on Christ.
- 9. You must avail yourself of his exceeding great and precious promises. You
must realize what the promises were given for; and that they were given for you personally.
The Apostle Peter says--"Whereby are given unto us, exceeding great and precious
promises, that, by these we might be partakers of the divine nature; having escaped
the corruption that is in the world through lust." The design of the promises,
then, is, to beget in us a universal likeness to the Lord Jesus Christ. Now, a promise
is good for nothing unless it be fulfilled. Ten thousand promises, of such a character,
would be of no more use, than a book of checks given to a poor man, by Mr. Astor,
which he carries about closed up, and never uses.
IV. Obligation to obey this command is universal.
- 1. By this, it is not intended, that all are to do exactly the same things which
Christ did, for no one, is, in all respects, in the same circumstances. As circumstances
vary, outward duties differ. Christ practiced celibacy; and, in the circumstances
in which He was placed, this was his duty. But it never could be the duty of mankind,
generally, to imitate Him in this particular, and in many other things.
- 2. But it is intended that all are bound to do as He did, so far, as their circumstances
are the same, that they are to do what they suppose He would do, if He were in their
circumstances: For example; if He were a father, a merchant, a mechanic, a lawyer,
or a citizen. In early life He was a carpenter, and labored with his father at his
trade. Let a carpenter ask these questions,--"What sort of a carpenter was Jesus
Christ? How honest was He? How did He do his work? How did He associate, and converse
with his fellow workmen?" Now just that, which you suppose Him to be, you are
to be. Suppose the Lord Jesus Christ were a merchant, upon what principles would
He conduct his business? Or, if He were a physician, how would He practice? Would
He avoid visiting the poor, and seek to engross a practice among the rich?
- 3. You are to consider, how He would act in your circumstances, and do, as you
think He would. How important for a minister of the gospel, to inquire what kind
of a pastor Christ would be if He were in his circumstances; and so with every other
man, for the same reason. If Christ were a physician, what would He do? Would He
try to reject the custom of the poor, and obtain that of the rich? Would He say,
when a poor man came soliciting his aid, I shall not get much money for this; therefore,
I do not care whether I attend to it or not. Now, beloved brethren, in this congregation,
who are physicians, are you such as you think Christ would be, taking into the account
the difference of circumstances? So, you may take any other occupation, even the
lowest; for none that is honest, is too low to forbid the supposition, of his being
in similar circumstances. It was with a design to illustrate this, that He washed
his disciples' feet. In the East they wear sandals, which expose their feet to the
hot sands, and it was customary for the lowest servant of the house to wait at the
door with water, to wash the feet of visitors. Now the Savior did this, to inculcate
the lesson of lowliness of heart, and to show the spirit with which all should perform
the duties of life. Whatever may be your condition, whatever you suppose Christ would
be in your place, just that, you ought to be. And it is an important question, for
each one to ask, "Would Christ pursue my calling, if placed in my circumstances,
and would He pursue it as I do?"
- 4. That it is a universal duty to put on Christ, is evident from the following
facts--that it is just right--that all can do it by his grace--that universal reason
demands it--that it is essential to the good of the universe, and that sinners are
as really commanded to do it, as saints are.
V. Obedience to the requirement of this text, is naturally indispensable to
- 1. By this, it is not intended, that no one can be saved who has not always done
- 2. But, so far as their knowledge extends, they are to put Him on, and live devoted
to the same end.
- (1.) Because every thing short of this is sin.
- (2.) Nothing short of intending to be, or do, what He would be, or do, with our
light, and in our circumstances, can be acceptable to God.--"Ye cannot serve
God and mammon." What does this mean? Not that ye cannot serve God at one time,
and mammon at another; but that you must be entirely devoted either to one, or the
other, and cannot serve both at the same time.
- (3.) Benevolence, is a unit, and will always manifest itself alike in all, so
far as their circumstances are similar.
- (4.) Christ was no more than virtuous, and you must be no less, or you cannot
be saved. I have often been astonished, that people talk as if Christ did something
more than his duty, and performed works of supererogation, as if such a thing were
possible. Duty, is what benevolence requires. Now, if Christ should do more than
benevolence requires, it could not be benevolence, nor duty, and consequently, not
virtue. I would ask, was God in making the Atonement, any more benevolent than He
ought to be? If so, He was not virtuous in it. The truth is, people are in the dark
on this subject. No being in the universe can perform works of supererogation; for
every one, is required to do his whole duty. Christ was perfectly benevolent, and
this was his duty; and so must you be if you put Him on.
- (5.) You must be like Him, or you never can be with Him.
VI. Some of the consequences of obeying this requirement.
And here, I wish to be exceedingly candid, and keep nothing back. I have often marked
how much the Lord Jesus Christ differed from many who set themselves up as reformers.
He would often press his hearers, till almost all of them would forsake Him. Once,
all left Him but his twelve disciples, and He turned to them and said, "Will
ye also go away?" Implying that he would rather lose them than to keep back
the truth. And we must not preach a false Christ, or you will have the livery of
heaven, and the temper of the world.
- 1. The first consequence I mention, is, you will have much opposition. You can
expect no better usage than Christ received. "It is enough for the servant that
he be as his master."
- 2. You may expect great trials. This is the inheritance of all who will live
godly in Christ Jesus. Look at Paul. While he was a Pharisee, he went on smoothly.
The gales of popular favor swelled his sails. But when he became the preacher of
the cross, ah! then he knew what it was to go against wind and tide.
- 3. Men will accuse you of having a bad spirit. They have always brought this
charge against the true followers of Christ, and especially against Christ Himself.
He said so much about their teachers, creeds, and traditions, and rebuked them so
plainly, that they finally tried, and executed him as a blasphemer.
- 4. You will need great meekness, and at the same time great decision of character.
Without both of these qualities, you cannot endure the shock of a world arrayed against
- 5. You will subject yourself to much misapprehension. Men will not understand
you. Many wonder, why Christians are so misunderstood. But it is not at all wonderful.
Who was ever more misunderstood than Jesus Christ? The simple fact is, a selfish
mind does not understand the principle upon which a true Christian acts.
- 6. If you are misunderstood, you will of course, be misrepresented. This you
- 7. It will subject you to the loss of many friends. They will think you are ultra,
extravagant, and carrying matters too far. And every new step you take, you will
see an additional falling off. They will walk no more with you. But all the consequences
are not evil. For,
- 8. You will inherit his peace of mind; and this is worth more than all the world
can give. You will sleep just as sweetly, eat with just as much relish, and enjoy
the tranquil hours just as really, as if you had all the world's favor. Persons often
wonder, whether such are not unhappy. I answer, nay. They are the only persons who
know what true happiness is.
- 9. His joy will be fulfilled in you. This is his promise; and his true followers
sympathize with Him in all the joys He had.
- 10. You will share his glory in being the representative of the true God. "And
the glory which Thou gavest me, I have given them, that they may be one, even as
we are one; I in them, and Thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one, and
that the world may know that Thou hast sent me, and hast loved them as Thou hast
loved me." Christ was sent to reveal the true character of God. He took the
law which lay on tables of stone, and acted it out; thus showing mankind just what
God was. Without such a manifestation, as was thus made of his true character, men
must have always remained in ignorance. What is God? A glorious, infinite, and invisible
Spirit, lying back in the bosom of eternity, where no eye can reach. What finite
mind could comprehend Him? He must reveal Himself; and to this end, He concentrated
his glory in Christ, and sent Him forth among mankind. Every one, then, who puts
on the Lord Jesus Christ, will share this glory with Him, of making known to the
world the true character of God.
- 11. You will be able to say, with Paul, "For me to live, is Christ."
The Apostle seems to have had this idea in his mind, that Christ lived his life over
again in him. So it will be with you. Christ renews his life in his true followers.
- 12. You will be able to say from your own consciousness, as John says,--"Truly
our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ."
- 13. You will be happy in the highest degree of which you are capable in this
life. And you will be no less useful, than you are happy.
VII. Consequences of disobeying this requirement.
- 1. If you are a professor of religion, you will be a hypocrite, and people will
know it. There are, perhaps, some, who are successful in keeping on the mask. But
most, betray themselves sooner or later, and are known in their true character.
- 2. You will render peace of mind impossible.
- 3. You will render yourself justly despicable. All love to see men live up to
their profession, and naturally cry out against hypocrisy.
- 4. You will ruin your own soul, and do the most you can to ruin others.
- 5. You will bring upon yourself the endless execration of all beings in the Universe,
both good and bad.
1. Inconsistent professors sometimes gain the hollow applause of the unthinking,
2. But they never gain the solid respect, of any class, for any considerable time.
Instead of this, they really lose it. For as soon as their true character appears,
mankind cannot but condemn and abhor it. Their inward want of confidence in such
professors, is often exhibited in a trying hour. A fact related in my hearing by
a Methodist minister, made a deep impression on my mind. A wealthy man in the South,
who had sat under the preaching of a worldly minister, was taken sick, and about
to die. His friends asked him, if they should send for his minister. He said, no,
I do not want him now; we have been together at the horse-race. They urged him to
send for somebody, and mentioned several. But he rejected them all; and at last told
them to call in Tom, one of his colored men; for, said he, I have often heard him
pray alone. Tom came, laid his little hat at the door, and inquired what his master
wanted. Said the dying man, "Tom, do you pray?" "Yes, master,--in
my weak way." "Can you pray for your dying master?" "I'll try,"
he repeated. "Come here, then, and pray for me." And Tom drew near, and
poured out his soul to God for the dying man. Ah! the master knew, in his inmost
soul, that his minister could not pray. Poor Tom, was the man to pray.
3. The lives of many professors, are a most terrible burlesque on Christianity. Satan,
it would seem, has pushed these into the Church to disgrace it. Persons who have
a strong sense of the ridiculous, are often tempted to laugh at the absurd notions
of religion which some manifest. They never seem to think of asking how Christ would
do. I have sometimes seen servants, in families where they were called to family
worship, come in cowering, and get behind the door, altogether away from the family
circle. I wonder if they think it will be so in heaven. In some families I know,
it is not their wish, but the choice of the servant, and of course they are not to
blame. Since I have been here I have seen persons take up their hats and leave the
house, when they see the colored people sitting among the whites. I wonder if such
people would do so in heaven. Do let me ask, is not this the direct opposite of the
spirit of Christ? How would Christ treat the poor slaves, and the colored people,
if He were in this country?
4. See the importance of always bearing in mind the person whom you have undertaken
to represent, and the part you are expected to act. For example; all can see that
a minister in the pulpit, and every where, should bear this in mind, and so he should;
but no more, really, than any other Christian should in his vocation.
5. It becomes us to inquire, whether we have so represented Christ as to give those
around us the true idea of religion. Suppose a minister should never ask himself,
what idea of religion his people get from him. It is easy to see that he would not
be able to convey a very definite idea of it to his people. So every professor should
do. And now beloved, do you live so as to make the impression, that religion is disinterested
benevolence? Who would get that idea from you? Said a man not long since, if religion
is benevolence, I know of but one man in our church who seems to be religious. How
many do you know in this City? Nothing else is religion--Do you live so? Do I? If
not what will become of our souls?
6. Those who do not put on Christ, are the worst kind of heretics. There is no heresy
so bad as a false profession.
7. Inconsistent professors are the greatest curse to the world, that there is in
8. Professors who have not put on Christ should confess to those around them and
instantly reform. Confess to your wife, your children, your church, your neighbors.
Will you do it?
9. Sinners are altogether without excuse, and are as much bound to put on Christ
10. Unless every one of us, in his calling, fully intends to put on Christ, and keep
Him on, we are in the way to hell. If you are not what you think Christ would be
in your calling, you are not a Christian. How different is this from the common religion.
All that we see is pride, and starch, and fashion, and death. Oh! brethren, let us
put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and "make no provision for the flesh to fulfill
the lusts thereof."
of easily misunderstood terms as defined by Mr. Finney himself.
Compiled by Katie Stewart
- Complacency, or Esteem: "Complacency, as a state of will or heart,
is only benevolence modified by the consideration or relation of right character
in the object of it. God, prophets, apostles, martyrs, and saints, in all ages, are
as virtuous in their self-denying and untiring labours to save the wicked, as they
are in their complacent love to the saints." Systematic Theology (LECTURE
VII). Also, "approbation of the character of its object. Complacency is
due only to the good and holy." Lectures to Professing Christians (LECTURE
- Disinterested Benevolence: "By disinterested benevolence I do not
mean, that a person who is disinterested feels no interest in his object of pursuit,
but that he seeks the happiness of others for its own sake, and not for the sake
of its reaction on himself, in promoting his own happiness. He chooses to do good
because he rejoices in the happiness of others, and desires their happiness for its
own sake. God is purely and disinterestedly benevolent. He does not make His creatures
happy for the sake of thereby promoting His own happiness, but because He loves their
happiness and chooses it for its own sake. Not that He does not feel happy in promoting
the happiness of His creatures, but that He does not do it for the sake of His own
gratification." Lectures to Professing Christians (LECTURE I).
- Divine Sovereignty: "The sovereignty of God consists in the independence
of his will, in consulting his own intelligence and discretion, in the selection
of his end, and the means of accomplishing it. In other words, the sovereignty of
God is nothing else than infinite benevolence directed by infinite knowledge."
Systematic Theology (LECTURE LXXVI).
- Election: "That all of Adam's race, who are or ever will be saved,
were from eternity chosen by God to eternal salvation, through the sanctification
of their hearts by faith in Christ. In other words, they are chosen to salvation
by means of sanctification. Their salvation is the end- their sanctification is a
means. Both the end and the means are elected, appointed, chosen; the means as really
as the end, and for the sake of the end." Systematic Theology (LECTURE LXXIV).
- Entire Sanctification: "Sanctification may be entire in two senses:
(1.) In the sense of present, full obedience, or entire consecration to God; and,
(2.) In the sense of continued, abiding consecration or obedience to God. Entire
sanctification, when the terms are used in this sense, consists in being established,
confirmed, preserved, continued in a state of sanctification or of entire consecration
to God." Systematic Theology (LECTURE LVIII).
- Moral Agency: "Moral agency is universally a condition of moral obligation.
The attributes of moral agency are intellect, sensibility, and free will." Systematic
Theology (LECTURE III).
- Moral Depravity: "Moral depravity is the depravity of free-will,
not of the faculty itself, but of its free action. It consists in a violation of
moral law. Depravity of the will, as a faculty, is, or would be, physical, and not
moral depravity. It would be depravity of substance, and not of free, responsible
choice. Moral depravity is depravity of choice. It is a choice at variance with moral
law, moral right. It is synonymous with sin or sinfulness. It is moral depravity,
because it consists in a violation of moral law, and because it has moral character."
Systematic Theology (LECTURE XXXVIII).
- Human Reason: "the intuitive faculty or function of the intellect...
it is the faculty that intuits moral relations and affirms moral obligation to act
in conformity with perceived moral relations." Systematic Theology (LECTURE
- Retributive Justice: "Retributive justice consists in treating every
subject of government according to his character. It respects the intrinsic merit
or demerit of each individual, and deals with him accordingly." Systematic
Theology (LECTURE XXXIV).
- Total Depravity: "Moral depravity of the unregenerate is without
any mixture of moral goodness or virtue, that while they remain unregenerate, they
never in any instance, nor in any degree, exercise true love to God and to man."
Systematic Theology (LECTURE XXXVIII).
- Unbelief: "the soul's withholding confidence from truth and the God
of truth. The heart's rejection of evidence, and refusal to be influenced by it.
The will in the attitude of opposition to truth perceived, or evidence presented."
Systematic Theology (LECTURE LV).
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